Southern Oregon and Northern California have been particularly hard hit by recent wilderness and monument proposals. I refer to exclusion of motorized recreation from these beautiful places.
The list of these places and their size is impressive and includes most of the areas one would want to visit because they occupy high ground or the mountainous areas in this two-state area.
They include :
■ The Soda Mountain Wilderness, 230,000 acres.
■ The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, 52,940 acres.
■ The Kalmiopsis Wilderness, 179,755 acres.
■ The Siskiyou Wilderness, 183,000 acres.
■ The Red Buttes Wilderness, 19,940 acres.
■ The proposed Siskiyou Crest National Monument, 622,760 acres, encompassing the two latter Wildernesses. That total is 1,288,395 acres and doesn't include some other listed roadless areas, and leaves little planning room for motorized recreation within the proposed Siskiyou Crest National Monument.
The planning processes for the monument have some merit, to be sure, and a lot of the values have been ours as well. Most of these efforts have been pursued ruthlessly where off-highway-vehicle use was of concern. We wonder why groups which have so eloquently described their arguments have seldom extended that talent to sharing those arguments at the same table, considering, for instance, possible answers to the OHV recreation dilemma.
Potential for more funds
Don't forget the potential recreation dollars to be lost from hungry and desperate coffers of surrounding communities. OHV recreational use has grown 300 percent in the past 20 years and I will be the first to admit that resource education in schools is lacking, if non-existent. It has been a major problem that should be responsibly addressed by all.
All national and state OHV organizations that provide the overview for outdoor recreation espouse "leave no trace" and "tread lightly" themes. The 5 percent that creates the problems do not curry favor with us either and we can help with that by showing there is another way.
We know that first management must strike for sustainability in the proposed trail system. Obviously, that will provide the proper direction to provide for the environment.
Critiques on the many Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management travel management plans indicate an absence of OHV expertise. Managers who did utilize common sense and expertise were heavily criticized and sued by anti-motorized folks. The feds folded under the dollar threat and went obediently with the "one size fits all" Washington, D.C., edict. It's also true that funding for knowledgeable in-house recreation technicians in today's economics is pretty challenging.
Not everyone is aware of the OHV funding mechanism so perhaps this will help: Anyone who recreates on state and federal lands with an OHV must have purchased a sticker and affixed it to the vehicle. That covers ATV (class 1), full size four-wheel-drive (Class 2), motorcycle (Class 3) and side-by-side ATV (Class 4).
Where the money goes
Money from sticker sales goes to a dedicated fund for enhancement of motorized recreation in Oregon. Other states employ this system as well, but Oregon has thus far escaped state depletion of those funds. The California system has been tapped for around $116 million by that state's system. In these days of economic woes, it doesn't pay to have uncommitted money for something as frivolous as recreation lying about.
That doesn't mean all those dollars get to the ground. At a recent Oregon State OHV funding meeting, just over $3 million was awarded in a medley of state, county and federal law enforcement officer funding grants.
Fifteen years ago, the amount would have been $10,000 for the year. The loss of adequately planned trail systems is directly related to this flagrant spending. Proper funding to build, enhance and monitor trail systems is where the money should be spent.
When we lose recreational opportunity, we also lose those dollars that visitors submit to motels, restaurants, gas stations, food stores, parts houses and for equipment. The local economy suffers and the domino effect continues to include job losses.
What I have written should indicate that change is required on many fronts. Resource education, qualified OHV technicians, protected OHV funds, and monuments and wilderness must be a clear referendum to the people, not some knee-jerk proclamation from afar.
One of the most important points is we sorely need a caring and interested public. Join a club and or an association; a group so that you can help turn these potential losses around. A collective voice has always been required to effect change.
Good management can change to reflect attention to the environment and to a recreating public.
Tom Harris is a member of the Jefferson State 4-Wheel Drive Association, the Klamath/Lake/Siskiyou Recreation Committee, the Klamath Basin OHV Club, the Pacific Northwest 4-Wheel Drive Association and California 4 Wheel Drive Association.