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OHV registration fee allocation reform passes
Long overdue. There will be some impacts to Mountain biking as illegal OHV trail that bicycles use are closed, (as funding allows) but overall, IMO it's a very positive thing:

Colorado Sportsman and Conservation Groups Applaud
Sweeping Reforms to State's Off-Highway Vehicle Program Made by State Parks Board 5-0

Reforms to $4 Million Annual OHV Program Adopted After News Accounts of OHV Program Abuse and a Year-long Campaign to Allow Law Enforcement & Wildlife Habitat Restoration Grants to be Funded.

(Denver, CO) - July 16th, 2010 - A coalition of Colorado Sportsman, recreationists and conservationists applauded the Colorado State Parks Board for making sweeping changes to the state's $4M annual Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Grant Program at their Board today in Aurora, CO. These reforms come after a year-long campaign by sportsman and conservationist to reform the program and an investigative story on the OHV Program in the Denver Post that revealed serious abuses and a disregard for hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds by a relatively unknown OHV Subcommittee (story: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14274745).

Past Abuses of the OHV Program include:
· Giving grant applicants $525,000 more than they asked for in 2009 during a time when the State Parks Budget was cut more than $3 million.
· The OHV Subcommittee secretively altering and increasing original grant request amounts before submitting the grants for State Parks Board approval.
· Lack of transparency and conflicts of interest by allowing the OHV Subcommittee to make decisions in sessions closed to the public and allowing subcommittee members to be associated with groups receiving grants.
· Giving excess grant money to trail maintenance projects while insisting that there is not enough money to fund critical law enforcement and habitat restoration.
· State money being granted to special interest groups to develop propaganda and used for special interest advocacy purposes.

The reforms approved today to the OHV Program, which is funded by an annual $25.25 registration fee on OHVs include the following:

· Law Enforcement, Education and Travel Management Plan Implementation (i.e. trail closures, barriers, signs, etc) will now become an official criterion under which grants are scored and treated the same as any OHV trail maintenance grant, which has received the majority of funding in the past. The New Grant Selection Criteria will be:
o Need and Benefit of proposed grant (25 pts)
o Law Enforcement, Education & Travel Management Plan Implementation (25 pts)
o Resource and Habitat Protection (25 pts)
o Local Partnerships & Leverage (25 pts)

· An element of "Need" will now be incorporated into the "Benefit" criterion so that a variety of grant applicants (i.e. Enforcement, habitat protection, etc.) will be allowed to earn points vs. just awarding points to grant applications benefiting OHV recreationists.

· OHV Subcommittee Reconfiguration & Diversity: The OHV Subcommittee which reviews, scores and approves the $4M in grants annually will no longer be comprised of (10) OHV enthusiasts and instead the OHV Subcommittee will now be comprised of (8) motorized and (3) non-motorized and (1) diversified user for an 8-4 Subcommittee Composition for the 2011 grant cycle. This diversity of interests will allow for a more transparent and balanced review of grants.

· (1) Division of Wildlife Law Enforcement expert and (1) Wildlife or Biologist expert will now serve as ex-officio members of the Subcommittee. These experts who have never participated in the process and will be able to provide input on enforcement needs and help the OHV Subcommittee understand the impacts OHV use has on wildlife, hunting and habitat. In addition, state employees involved in the administration of the OHV Program will no longer be able to score the grant applications.

· In order to promote transparency and prevent OHV Subcommittee members from subjectively giving artificially low or high scores to select grants, all scores given by each OHV Subcommittee member will be made public and shared with the entire Subcommittee instead of those scored remaining secret and averaged together with all other scores.

· The OHV Program will incorporate an "escalation procedure" that will allow any grant that does not receive OHV Subcommittee approval to be escalated and considered for funding by the State Trails Committee and/or the State Parks Board.

R20;We view these changes as a balanced and necessary step in the evolution of a program that has grown ten-fold over the last ten years" says Bryan Martin, Director of Conservation for The Colorado Mountain Club, "As this program continues to grow it is critical that all aspects of responsible OHV management, especially law enforcement and habitat protection, are included in the grant funding and that more and more public land users are bought into the program."

The reforms to the OHV Program are a culmination of work, research, and negotiations over the past year. Since the fall of 2009, the State Parks board has held nearly one public meeting a month to discuss the issues at stake in the modification of the program. State Parks Board members, State Trails Committee members, State Parks staff and Department of Natural Resources staff have heard from thousands of constituents across the state. The proposal is a reflection of the diverse views, observations, and input the public has had in this process over the past 10 months.

R20;For the past decade the OHV Program has been controlled by a small and relatively unknown group of OHV riders who have awarded millions of dollars in grants for OHV trail maintenance and OHV promotion while critical law enforcement needs were neglected and thousands of miles of habitat damage occurred. These reforms benefit both motorized and non-motorized recreationists and will hopefully ensure that this $4 million state program is open and transparent and that all aspects of OHV management are treated fairly and funded," said Rob Firth, former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Division of Wildlife.

David Lien, Chairman of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers said, "These reforms are common sense. Colorado Hunters and Anglers pay fees every year to ensure our sport is managed responsibly for all to enjoy. Our hunting and fishing fees go toward adequate law enforcement and habitat protection and the OHV Program should do the same." Lien referenced
a recently published national sportsman's poll on OHV abuse as further evidence that these reforms are needed http://www.responsibletrails.org/ima...ing up-2.pdf.

Several other Western states such as AZ, NV, NM and CA have recently passed legislation or rules directing OHV registration funds towards law enforcement and habitat protection which were supported by both motorized and non-motorized interests. Unfortunately, in Colorado negotiations with the OHV community were initiated numerous times, but OHV representatives pulled out on every occasion.

Bryan Martin responded to a recent claim from the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) that the process for considering reforms to the OHV Program has been flawed, stating "COHVCO as well as representatives from the sportsman and conservation groups have had numerous meetings and discussions with State Parks staff and Board members and both groups have provided extensive written and verbal testimony over the past year on this issue, so any accusation that the process was flawed is patently false. Despite COHVCO's heavy-handed tactics and opposition every step of the way, the interests and concerns of sportsman, law enforcement, and public land users won out. We are confident that despite COHVCO's opposition to these common sense reforms, that the majority of OHV users support adequate funding for law enforcement and habitat protection because they ride responsibly and want to crack down on the reckless riders."

Contact Information:

Bryan Martin, 303.996.2768
Director of Conservation, The Colorado Mountain Club

David Lien, 719.650.6526
Chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Rob Firth, 970.531.3939
Former Chief of Law Enforcement, Division of Wildlife

Aaron Clark, 303. 324. 7031
Director of Recreation Campaign, Southern Rockies Conservation Alliance
 
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