April 2023

(Photo credit: Mike Passo, American Trails)

International Trails Summit Breaks Attendance Records

The International Trails Summit (ITS), which took place in Reno, Nevada, April 17-20, 2023, was a rousing success, with over 900 attendees and more than 130 informational sessions representing 20 countries and 47 states, making it the largest Summit ever. Co-hosted by American Trails and the Professional TrailBuilders Association, the Summit featured two full days of concurrent sessions and an extended pre- and post-event schedule with hands-on workshops in the field, as well as an offsite field day on Thursday featuring demonstrations of heavy machinery, adaptive bicycles, trail auditing using digital platforms, horse and goat-packing demonstrations and more. In addition, the World Trails Film Festival had its North American premiere as part of the Summit’s evening offerings.

The purpose of the Summit is to bring together trail and greenway advocates, managers, planners, and users, as well as tourism and business interests. It is the most inclusive gathering of all trail interests— professionals, managers, and trail users who believe their combined voices are the best way to strengthen trails for everyone. “A lot of people think that trails just kind of exist, but the reality is they’re a part of our infrastructure, and they take maintenance,” said Mike Passo, Executive Director of American Trails. “They take consistent maintenance with well-trained people, so we’re all about raising the level of training and the ability of volunteers, professionals, and agency staff all over the country,” Passo added.

The ITS featured several notable speakers for the plenary sessions: Herman Fillmore of the Washoe Tribe opened the Summit with a land acknowledgment; keynote speaker Ku Stevens discussed how trails connect us to our shared cultural history; Jackson, WY County Commissioner Luther Probst shared examples of how outdoor recreation can transform small and rural communities; and Ryan Chao of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy moderated a panel of experts that discussed how the trails world has changed in the past several years and the opportunities and challenges this represents.  Finally, Pedro da Cunha e Menezes, the Director of the Brazilian Trails Network, presented an exciting vision for the Pan American Trail and the associated network of trails that will protect critical habitats and local economies while connecting the entire South American continent.

The Summit also featured a Motorized Caucus discussion on developing actionable steps in affecting and directing national policy change for motorized recreation. The Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and One Voice hosted the session. More than 50 attendees participated, including international representatives from Israel to Canada and the United States. Federal agencies, including the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, State OHV Commissions, state agencies and divisions, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, non-profit organizations, trail advocacy groups, and grassroots organizations, participated in the session.

“Identifying what does and doesn’t work on the ground is the foundation of policy direction for the future of Motorized Recreation in America,” said Fred Wiley, President and CEO of the Off-Road Business Association and ONE VOICE. “If we don’t develop a cohesive plan that addresses the actual needs, we are failing our industry,” Wiley and ONE VOICE added.

Some of the recommendations that emerged from the session included:

  • Looking at current platforms to facilitate this type of communication and outreach to agency representatives to connect with grassroots organizations, state, and municipalities;
  • Creating a clearinghouse for best practices;
  • Compiling all economic studies based on motorized recreation;
  • Developing successful partnerships with agencies and organizations, i.e., cost-share agreements
  • identify independent planning resources for NEPA;
  • Reviewing qualification/certification process; and
  • Creating models/tools/kits with states with successful Trail Ambassador and OHV Programs and state association development and best practices.

American Trails is a certified provider and offered the following professional learning credit opportunities: AICP CM, LA CES, NRPA CEU Equivalency Petition, and Other CEU/PDH Equivalency Petition.

Comment Period Extended for the Buy America Waiver Notice

On April 23, 2023, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a notice to extend the comment deadline to May 22, 2023, for its March 17, 2023 Buy America waiver notice. Buy America provisions are meant to increase the use of U.S. content in items purchased with tax dollars for projects such as Recreational Trail Program (RTP) trail development and maintenance, but meeting the strict threshold is increasingly difficult for specialized trail equipment. Extension of the public comment period is based on concern that the original comment period needed to be revised to meaningfully review the request for comments, analyze the impact of any possible changes to the existing general applicability waiver for manufactured products, gather information, and provide comprehensive comments.

The March 17, 2023 notice sought comments on FHWA’s existing general applicability waiver for manufactured products under its Buy America waiver authorities. FHWA is considering whether to continue, discontinue, or modify the current Manufactured Products General Waiver pursuant to the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA). BABA requires federal agencies to review existing general applicability waivers by publishing notices that describe the justification for general applicability waivers and request public comments on the continued need for such waivers.

The “Build America, Buy America Act,” which was part of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIL), requires that all iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in infrastructure projects are produced in the United States. The DOT is proposing to use its authority under Section 70914(b)(1) of the Act to waive the Buy America preferences for such materials under a single financial assistance award for which:

  • The total value of the non-compliant products is no more than the lesser of $1 million or 5% of total allowable costs under the Federal financial assistance award;
  • The size of the federal financial assistance award is below $500,000; or
  • The non-domestically produced miscellaneous minor components comprise no more than 5 percent of the total material cost of an otherwise domestically produced iron or steel product.

ARRA encourages its members to file comments. Comments are due May 22, 2023, and may be submitted at regulations.gov under Docket ID: FHWA-2022-0027.

CA State Parks Seeks Public Input on Expanding OHV Recreation Opportunities

The California Department of Parks and Recreation, known as State Parks, seeks public input for its OHV Access Project. State Parks is exploring acquiring and developing properties and opportunities to expand off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation in new and existing facilities. This results from legislation passed in September 2021, Senate Bill 155 (Ch. 258, Statutes of 2021) that amended Public Resources Code Section 5090.42.

The legislation also recommended prioritizing opportunities that serve large urban areas such as the Bay Area and Central Valley and offer potential recreational opportunities for OHV recreation and motorized access to non-motorized recreation. State Parks can expand OHV recreation throughout the state – through acquisition, lease, land swap, partnership, donation, transfer, and legislation.

State Parks is gathering information and seeking public input regarding OHV locations, recreational experiences, and potential partnerships State Parks should consider for the OHV Access Project. State Parks will then prepare a preliminary report, feasibility study, and the OHV Recreation Action Plan. Finally, State Parks will work on strategies to implement the OHV Recreation Access Plan recommendations.

Please take the time to complete the survey, as your answers will help State Parks gather information during the planning process. Click here to access and complete the survey. The survey will be open until June 30, 2023.

Recent Bureau of Land Management Activity

  • Reno, Nevada – The BLM is seeking public comments to inform the development of a programmatic environmental assessment (EA) that will cover a range of Special Recreation Permits (SRP) for Off-Highway Vehicle events in Nevada. The development of this programmatic EA will aid BLM staff in responding to private party applications for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) events on BLM-administered land throughout Nevada. The BLM is seeking public input about route locations and possible stipulations for issuing OHV SRPs on BLM land in portions of Washoe, Storey, Lyon, Douglas, Mineral, Churchill, Esmeralda, Nye, and Lincoln Counties.  “BLM invites input from the public to help inform our development of a programmatic environmental assessment to address Special Recreation Permitting of Off-Highway Vehicle events in various locations across Nevada,” Tammy Owens, BLM Project Lead. The programmatic EA will comply with the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLMPA), which establishes outdoor recreation as one of the principal uses of public lands and directs the Secretary of the Interior to regulate, through permits or other instruments, the use of public lands (43 CFR 2391.3). Public scoping will be open for comments 30 days, beginning April 20- May 19, 2023. Written input may be emailed to BLM_NV_SRP_EA@blm.gov, submitted online at the BLM’s Project ePlanning Site, or mailed to the BLM Nevada State Office, Attn: OHV Special Recreation Permit Project, 1340 Financial Blvd Reno, NV 89502.
  • Rock Springs, Wyoming – The BLM Rock Springs Field Office is temporarily closing the Steamboat Mountain area northeast of Rock Springs, Wyoming to motorized vehicles. The closure lasts from May 10 to July 1 to protect sensitive elk calving and deer fawning areas, as indicated in the Green River Resource Management Plan.