The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Program was founded in 1971, in response to the need to manage growing demands for off-highway recreation, while at the same time foster respect for private property rights and to protect California's natural and cultural resources.
The program was created by a cooperative effort between OHV recreationist and conservationist to manage OHV use in California as a separate operating division of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Today, this program is the largest and most successful program of its type in the U.S. The program continues its commitment to provide safe, enjoyable recreation while balancing the need to protect the state's resources.
OHV recreation is not confined to California State Parks. In fact the vast majority of OHV recreation is on Federal Lands. The State Park units (State Vehicular Recreation Areas or SVRAs) were added after the programs creation. Federal and private OHV recreation is ongoing and the program provides oversight and coordinated management to OHV facilities statewide.
The OHV program has a statute created dedicated funding source. The fund is comprised of SVRA entry fees, vehicle registration fees and a pro rata percentage of the California fuel tax fund. The fuel tax portion is based on a formula similar to the Federal RTP program, and directs those taxes collected from OHVs to areas where OHV use occurs. It is important to note that prior to this system, OHV owners were able to apply for a refund of those same fuel tax monies directly from the state. By statute, the California’s OHV fund is not intended for any other purpose and is subject to California state laws.
At the creation of the OHV program, conservationist insisted that OHV environmental management be held to a higher standard than non-motorized recreation at OHV facilities. Therefore, policy and best management practices to achieve these requirements need trained experts in environmental management for OHV recreation facilities to uphold state statute.
The unique OHMVR Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program (Grants Program) provides for managed off-highway vehicle recreation in the State of California by providing financial assistance to cities, counties, districts, federal agencies, state agencies, educational institutions, federally recognized Native American Tribes, and nonprofit entities.
The Grants Program supports multiagency planning, acquisition, development, maintenance, administration, operation, enforcement, restoration, and conservation of trails, trailheads, areas, and other facilities associated with the use of OHVs, and programs involving OHV safety or education.
This Grants Program requires oversight by specialized OHV grant analysts to assist applicants, provide a forum for public input and audit each grant during the its lifecycle to ensure proper use of grant funds to satisfy strict statute requirements.
What is the Parks Forward Commission and the Transformation Team?
The Parks Forward Commission (PFC) was appointed in July of 2013, in accordance with the California State Parks Stewardship Act of 2012 and AB 1478, to recommend improvements for ensuring the State Park System's long-term sustainability. The Commission's primary purpose was "to look beyond the immediate crisis and toward a broader vision for California Parks."
In anticipation of the PFC Report, the California Natural Resources Agency and the new Acting Parks Director commenced a State Parks Transformation process. The Administration assembled a Transformation Team in the fall of 2014. The Team, comprised of State Parks staff, outside entities and professional consultants, developed a tactical Transformation Action Plan.
The Parks Forward Commission did not find much fault with the OHMVR program during its comprehensive study of California’s Department of Parks and Recreation and did not recommend consolidating the OHMVR program into the troubled DPR operations.
Is the OHMVR Division properly represented on the Transformation Team?
No. The Transformation Team is comprised of eight committees with thirty-one initiatives. Even with the California OHMVR Program recognized worldwide as the standard of managed OHV recreation, there is only one OHV division staff member on all of the committees and none in a leadership position. There is also a Transformation Advisory Committee with twenty-three members and only one with OHMVR Program experience.
What is the Transformation Team recommending for the OHMVR Division?
The Team’s preliminary recommendation is consolidation within other units of the Department of Parks and Recreation with a stated goal of streamlining processes and reducing duplication between divisions.
How would consolidation affect the OHMVR Program?
It would have a drastic affect on the Program. The Grants Program would lose critical oversight by highly trained OHMVR specialists. Environmental and Law Enforcement programs on Federal Lands in many of California’s most pristine landscapes may be imperiled, which could have a significant impact on water quality and wildlife habitat. The Education and Interpretation Program could be scaled back limiting OHV training, youth safety instruction and critical outreach efforts. Operations will be under DPR management that is not qualified to implement the standards set by statute for the OHMVR Program. OHMVR dedicated funds would be intermixed and could be redirected for non-program uses.
Why would the Transformation Team make such a decision?
First and foremost to gain access to the dedicated OHMVR funds on a permanent basis. DPR is historically underfunded and has a tremendous backlog of maintenance. The OHMVR funds have often been borrowed or redirected by the Legislators and Governor’s office with little regard for the program’s legislation. The current proposal for the 2016/2017 Budget redirects 31 million dollars from OHMVR to DPR. This transfer is allowed by an opinion written by California’s Attorney General that could be challenged in a court of law. If the OHMVR Program were consolidated within DPR, the OHMVR funds would be intermingled and used to overcome shortfalls with DPR’s funding. Secondly, the Transformation Team has a complete lack of understanding about the history and scope of the OHMVR Program. A staff filled with career DPR employees, anti-OHV advocates and consultants with no OHMVR Division experience led the Transformation Team down a path to a poor decision and potential disaster for the OHMVR Division and OHV recreationist in California.
How could the Transformation Team’s recommendations be implemented?
Only by changing the current statute. It would require passage in the California Assembly and Senate, and then California’s Governor would have to sign the bill.
How can I oppose these recommendations by the Transformation Team and protect California’s OHMVR Program?