March 2022

(Infographic credit: USFS)

USFS Reveals Trail Partner Survey Results

In the fall of 2021, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) encouraged its State Partners to participate in a United States Forest Service (USFS) survey conducted by the USFS in partnership with the University of Colorado Denver. The survey, which had over 1,300 respondents, aimed to provide insights into the experiences and perceptions of trail volunteers and partners working with the Forest Service.

The survey results are intended to help inform the implementation of the Forest Service’s 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge (Trail Challenge), which focuses on working in shared stewardship with partners and volunteers to increase the collective capacity to maintain trails and increase trail sustainability.

Perhaps the most glaring revelation from the survey was that the USFS recognizes it has staffing issues, and it relies heavily on volunteers to build and maintain safe, sustainable trails. USFS employees are asked to do more with fewer resources, which means recreation sites may not receive all the attention they deserve from volunteer engagement. Additionally, the USFS recognizes it needs to improve communications and advertise opportunities to increase volunteer involvement to expand and enhance partnerships and address adverse staffing impacts.

“Partnerships and a clear understanding of what’s needed on our trails is vital to keeping public lands open for the riding and driving we love so much,” said Duane Taylor, Executive Director of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. “We appreciate the U.S. Forest Service for reaching out and trying to better understand its partners and also the volunteers who provided such valuable feedback. Most people don’t know that thousands of volunteers put in tremendous amounts of work on public trails nationwide. We’ll maintain our relationships with the USFS and the OHV community, and continue working with agencies, enthusiasts, and the industry to fulfill our mission of creating a positive future for OHV recreation.”

Click here to view the Trail Partner Survey Infographic.

Biden Administration Proposes $1.6 billion in BLM FY23 Budget

In late March, the Biden Administration submitted to Congress the President’s Budget for FY23. The president proposed $1.6 billion for the Bureau of Land Management within the budget, which includes funding for critically needed new employees and supports an estimated 10,592 full-time equivalents. The proposed FY23 budget is an increase of $238 million above the FY22 and is designed to help ensure access for all Americans to the public lands.

“President Biden has proposed an important blueprint for our country’s future that reflects the importance of science, equity, and collaboration in carrying out Interior’s important missions,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “These resources, coupled with the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help the Department make critical investments in climate resiliency while creating good-paying union jobs in the clean energy economy, ensuring Tribal communities have the resources and support they need, and conserving and protecting wildlife and their habitats for future generations. Together, we can ensure that every community has a stake in our efforts to build a better America.”

The Bureau will continue to improve the visitor experience on public lands by addressing infrastructure and maintenance needs. The BLM will implement $95 million of mandatory funding provided through the Great American Outdoors Act to significantly reduce and restructure its long-deferred maintenance backlog to support public safety, visitor access, and enjoyment of our public lands.

Click here for more information on the President’s FY23 Budget.

Montana Objects to Participating in the Administration’s 30×30 initiative

In early March, Governor Greg Gianforte announced Montana will not be participating in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) efforts to advance President Biden’s “30×30” initiative, calling it “long on philosophy and short on detail.” The “30×30” initiative aims to conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. The U.S. Geological Survey indicates that 12 percent of U.S. land is in conservation status. To achieve 30 percent by 2030, another 440 million acres would need to be put into conservation, an area nearly five times the size of Montana.

In a letter to the Department of Interior (DOI), Governor Gianforte cited the following four reasons why Montana will not participate in the effort:

  • The DOI’s lack of requisite authority;
  • Even if the DOI had the authority to undertake the actions outlined in E.O. 14008, those actions are inefficient and would cause significant harm to Montana and its private landowners;
  • Issuing ambiguous questions for comment does not constitute the public notice required for federal action; and
  • It is unclear how the DOI plans to fund the Atlas or any other associated efforts.

The letter was endorsed by the Montana Departments of Natural Resources and Conservation; Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Environmental Quality; Agriculture; and Livestock. “At a time when inflation is at a 40-year high and soaring, it is irresponsible to commit funds to advance inefficient and wasteful efforts, especially when the identified goals are already successfully met by the states and other stakeholders,” the Governor said.

The governor’s letter can be viewed in its entirety here.

Recent BLM Activity

  • Ely, Nevada – The Bureau of Land Management Ely District, Bristlecone Field Office asked the public to review and provide input on preliminary issues and planning criteria for a Travel and Transportation Management Plan and environmental assessment analyzing a proposed 2.2-mile, non-motorized trails system on public lands adjacent to Baker, Nevada. Up to two miles of existing two-track roads would be closed to motorized use. The 30-day public review and scoping period concluded March 23, 2022.
  • Ukiah, California – The BLM Ukiah Field Office extended the deadline until March 25 for public comments and suggestions on how to improve the South Cow Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Management Area near Ukiah. People interested in the area can provide BLM with their input for potential new trails and facilities, improvements to current trails and facilities, and additional recreational opportunities and activities for a more enjoyable recreation experience. Input received will be part of the initial public engagement process in the BLM’s development of the South Cow Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Management Area Implementation Plan.
  • Butte, Montana – The BLM’s Butte Field Office has finalized its Scratchgravel Hills Recreation Area Management Plan. The 5,500-acre planning area near Helena is a popular local recreation destination, used by hikers, bikers, trail runners, disc-golfers, and equestrians. “Based upon input from the public, including responses to scoping comments by recreationists, the plan includes the construction of a new 35-mile trail system open to hiking, trail running, traditional mountain biking, disc golf and equestrian use,” said Butte BLM Field Manager Lindsey Babcock. Among other things, the plan provides targeted outcomes for specific non-motorized recreation activities; improves recreation experiences and benefits; reduces user conflicts; identifies specific trail use zones; improves signage and visitor information; and provides sustainable options for continued use of the existing trails.
  • Palm Springs, California – The BLM is encouraging recreationalists who use the Minnewawa Truck Trail and the Otay Mountain Wilderness to access these areas from the south end at Doghouse Junction, as the northern parts of the truck trail and along Otay Lakes Road are closed to the public for an indefinite amount of time. The Minnewawa Truck Trail is a 3.4-mile unpaved, well-maintained fire road popular for off-highway vehicle recreation and shared by trucks, ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and U.S. Border Patrol.
  • Cedar City, Utah – The BLM Cedar City Field Office has approved the construction of two trailheads, a new trail system, a campground, and other features to enhance recreation in the Granite Mountain area of Beaver County. The total project would disturb less than 10 acres. The improvements will help accommodate and manage increasing recreation use, as well as repair and upgrade existing facilities.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada – Recognizing the need to balance critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise with high-quality visitor experience, the Bureau of Land Management Las Vegas Field Office is seeking comment on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Piute Eldorado Valley Area of Critical Environmental Concern Management Plan. Virtual public meetings will be held April 5 and 6 and the comment period will close April 19, 2022. Piute-Eldorado Valley Area of Critical Environmental Concern is the most extensive area of high-density desert tortoise habitat known in Nevada and it provides habitat for a host of other species including bighorn sheep and populations of rare plants. Hunting, birdwatching, camping, hiking, and off-highway vehicle travel are popular recreational uses within the 330,000-acre area.
  • The BLM will conduct a virtual public hearing regarding the use of motorized vehicles and aircraft in the management of wild horses and burros. The hearing is scheduled for April 26, 2022 from 3 to 5 p.m. MT and will be held using Zoom video conferencing technology and live-streamed at gov/live. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 requires BLM conduct an annual hearing to consider the use of motorized vehicles in the management of wild horses and burros. The BLM typically uses motorized vehicles to conduct gather operations, complete population surveys, and transport animals to/from corrals, pastures, and adoption, sale, and transfer events.