Cal4Wheel NRC South April 2019 Report

Department of Interior - Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed two secretarial orders in March highlighting the administration's support of outdoor recreation on public lands. Secretarial Order (SO) 3373 directs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to adequately consider public access for outdoor recreation when determining the appropriateness of the disposal or exchange of public lands. The second order, Secretarial Order 3374, establishes a departmental task force to ensure that the department efficiently and fully implements the most comprehensive public lands management legislation in a decade for the benefit of all Americans. The SO directs the BLM work to strike the proper balance for land and resources management, increase opportunities for hunting, fishing, and recreation on Federal lands, create economic prosperity while protecting and preserving America's treasures.

Both Secretarial Orders indicate that BLM will place access to public lands as a equal consideration with other competing uses.

BLM - California Desert District BLM has released the West Mojave Route Network Project LUPA for comment.  This is a long awaited planning document release that is driven by Court Order.  I have a copy of the accompanying maps for review.  Initial review does not reveal any unexpected restrictions to recreation access.  One area (Juniper Flats) has a long history of complaints and the proposed route systems appears to resolve many of the issues.

The route network has also be reviewed to address recent land designation changes within federal legislation signed into law a couple of months ago.  Within that legislation, desert recreation benefitted from Congressional designation of BLM OHV areas which limits other uses that would impact OHV recreation and Wilderness Study Area release.  Meaning, the OHV areas are now off limits for renewable energy and mining activity and one potential wilderness area has been released from future consideration.  There are a number of smaller actions that benefit OHV recreation that will be codified in the final land use amendment.  Final action is expected fall 2019 after review by Court.

State Parks - A general plan revision is in process for Red Rock Canyon Stat Park.  Department of Parks and Recreation has released four “concepts”; each with a different “purpose and need” statement related.  Ironically, none of the four concepts and their individual “purpose and need” appear to coincide with the overall stated intent of the “purpose and need” to develop a General Plan revision for Red Rock Canyon State Park. 

Noting that a General Plan serves as a blueprint for future decisions about land use, facilities, recreation opportunities, and management of natural, cultural, and physical resources, among other topics, and is required by the California Public Resources Code (PRC §5002.2), one would think that the four concepts would have a direct correlation to addressing changing conditions, analyzing the latest information and data, and incorporate lands that have been added to Red Rock Canyon State Park since the existing 1982 General Plan was approved.  Yes, a lot has changed in 35 plus years and a lot remains viable, 35 plus years later.

Comments have been submitted on behalf of the California 4 Wheel Drive Association (Cal4Wheel) and its membership concerning the request for scoping for the California Department of Parks and Recreation Red Rock Canyon State Park General Plan Revision.

Federal Legislation - Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein introduced the three-bill package in the US Senate, and Representatives Jared Huffman, Salud Carbajal and Judy Chu are fronting the House versions. A cursory review indicates these areas are already under use restrictions to protect that species or scenic views.

The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would designate 245,000 acres of wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. It would safeguard rivers and create the new Condor National Scenic Trail.

A second bill called the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act would establish the South Fork Trinity-Mad River Special Restoration Area, and add 262,000 acres of wilderness plus hundreds of miles of wild and scenic rivers.

The third bill, the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act would add more than 30,000 acres to the Yerba Buena, San Gabriel and Sheep Mountain wilderness areas in Southern California.

Johnson Valley - On April 6, the US Marine Corps and BLM hosted a public meeting concerning the Share Use Area of Johnson Valley OHV area.

Two important news points were released at the meeting.

1.  The restricted air space around the Twentynine Palms Marine Base has a proposed expansion pending approval.  The restricted air space is important to know if you are a private pilot or if you are a user of drone aircraft.  The use of drones by civilians is prohibited at all times within any restricted airspace.  Outside restricted airspace, Federal Aviation Administration regulations apply.

2.  As reported by the USMC, Marine training previously scheduled to happen during the month of August in 2019 will not occur.  Instead, the USMC has released a series of shorter area closure dates for 2020 and 2021.

30 April - 11 May 2020

30 October - 9 November 2020

30 April - 10 May 2021

29 October - 8 November 2021

These dates have been reviewed by BLM Barstow for conflict with scheduled or requested permitted event dates within Johnson Valley OHV Area during those times.

CARB - CARB adopted the first emissions control regulations for Off Highway Recreation Vehicle (OHRV) in 1994. These regulations went into effect starting in 1997. To comply, the OHRV industry had to shift from predominately high-emitting two-stroke engines to cleaner four-stroke engines. As the 1997 effective date approached, OHRV dealers and manufacturers expressed concern that there was not an adequate range of certified models available. To address this concern, CARB adopted the red sticker program in 1998. The red sticker program allows for the certification and sale of high-emitting OHRV with no emissions controls. The red sticker program was envisioned as a temporary program to allow additional time for the OHRV industry to develop cleaner engines. To mitigate emissions from these vehicles, their use is restricted on public lands during the summer months in areas where ozone levels exceed federal standards. CARB amended California's OHRV regulations in 2006 and 2013 to require increasingly stringent control of evaporative emissions from OHRV. Vehicles certified under the red sticker program remained exempt from evaporative control requirements.

Now, more than 20 years after the red sticker program was adopted, cleaner engine technology is readily available. However, more than half of all off-highway motorcycles sold in California are red sticker models with no emissions controls. CARB staff has found that the red sticker program's seasonal riding restrictions do not significantly reduce emissions and that the program does not address evaporative emissions that occur during vehicle storage, which comprise the majority of emissions from OHRV.

CARB proposes the following:

- End the red sticker certification program for OHRV beginning in model year 2022;

- Lift the seasonal riding restrictions on existing red sticker OHRV starting on January 1, 2025;
- Harmonize with U.S. EPA evaporative standards for off-highway motorcycles of model years 2020 through 2026

- Harmonize with U.S. EPA exhaust standards for off-highway motorcycles from 2022 through 2027;

- Establish cost-effective alternative requirements for controlling evaporative emissions from OHRV starting in 2020;

- Set more stringent exhaust emission control standards for ATV, off-road sport vehicles, and off-road utility vehicles from 2022;

- Amend the current emissions fleet averaging and zero emission vehicle credit provisions to provide manufacturers with flexible compliance pathways and accelerate development of zero emission OHRV; and

- Adopt more stringent California-specific emissions standards for new OHRV starting with the 2027/28 model year to reduce emissions and help achieve California's air quality goals.

The focus of these regulations if the 2-stroke motorcycle engine.  However, CARB is proposing more stringent exhaust emission control standards for ATV, off-road sport vehicles, and off-road utility vehicles beginning with model year 2022.  This is a troublesome proposal that reaches beyond the red-sticker motorcycle.

In coordination with AMA District 36, other state OHV groups and industry, Cal4Wheel has signed a comment letter concerning the CARB issue.  Final regulations are expected fall of 2019.