BLM's Fort Sage OHV Area. Photos submitted

BLM 3.0 — Seismic shift in BLM public land policy

Nobody in the OHV public land policy arena supports conservation of federal lands to protect natural resources — while still providing access to environmentally sound multiple-use recreation — more than I.  A lot of that support includes active participation on trail stewardship, restoration of lands damaged by illegal OHV use and pre-fire fuel reduction and post-fire recovery projects.

Current Restoration Project at Fort Sage OHV Area.

Most, if not all, of those projects are done in collaboration with the Forest Service, BLM, agency partners and volunteers with grant support from the powersports industry and the California State Parks OHV Grant Program.

The proposed 2023 BLM planning rule redefines the term conservation, creates conservation leases managed by private sector interests and emphasizes Areas of Critical Environmental Concern as the sole designation for protecting important natural, cultural, and scenic resources.

Conservation is a key element of land management today that protects natural resources and also provides sustainable recreation for OHV and other activities that families enjoy.  Traditional conservation includes maintaining trails to reduce soil loss, restoration and post-fire recovery.   However, under this rule, proposal conservation efforts would be restricted to “protection” and “restoration.”

Current Post Wildfire Conservation Project, Fort Sage OHV Area.

The proposed rule would direct BLM staff to identify and mitigate “disturbances” and restore the land to its natural state.  Authorized officers would be required to avoid authorizing any use of the public lands that permanently impairs ecosystem resilience.  Staff would also be directed to review and mitigate OHV and other recreation uses at designated intensive use areas such as the BLM Fort Sage OHV Area in California and the BLM Knolls OHV Area in Utah.

The new mitigation hierarchy would be to avoid, minimize, and compensate for impacts to all public land resources.

The new concept of private sector managed Conservation leases on BLM lands is also troubling for OHV access since the strict prohibition of OHV activity is a core tenet of most, if not all, private, state, and federal conservation lease plans and programs.

Many recreation and other multiple-use interests objected to the BLM’s 2017 2.0 Planning Rule because it created a vague set of hard to follow or implement standards that would have resulted in confusion, chaos and a loss of OHV access for casual use and permitted events such as amateur competition and club rides.  For those and other reasons, Congress and the president repealed the rule.

If this new rule is enacted, it will also create confusion and chaos.  Agency staff will no longer have time to authorize permitted OHV events or do travel plans.  Designated OHV sites would most likely see a loss of opportunity including entire areas being closed due to new definitions.

I believe the agency should redraw this proposal that appears to have been crafted behind closed doors with little if any substantive input from diverse multi-use stakeholders.  The public, partners, and agency staff that we work with deserve better.

Link to BLM proposed planning rule at regulations.gov/document/BLM-2023-0001-0001. Public Comments due by July 5, 2023.

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Quiet Warrior Racing promotes a responsible trail and road ethic for both non-street legal and street legal motorized vehicles by offering quality recreation-oriented consulting services to its clients for the benefit of their customers, stakeholders, and the public good.