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Diane Feinstein Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2014 (S.414)

In the January 2016 edition of the Endangered off-Roader SDORC President, Ed Stovin talks about federal legislation that Diane Feinstein and Paul Cook have introduced. It is known as the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015 (S.414). It amends the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (S22). This is the third time that Feinstein has tried to pass this legislation and she really wants it to go this time. There is a large area of land out in the California desert that she and some of her supporters really want to protect by designating as national monuments. The driving force is that the BLM has received permit applications to put renewable energy development on this land and have gone to Feinstein for help in protecting this land. The bill has a variet of actions, including designating national monuments, wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, a number of trails opened and closed, and federal designations for 5 OHV open areas. The bill has stuff we really like (wilderness), stuff that we don't care so much about (rivers and monuments) and stuff that we really want (OHV open areas and trails designated).

We don't like wilderness because no mechanized travel is allowed there, not even bicycles or wheelchairs. There will be no new legal trails put in wilderness areas. The monuments won't close any existing trails, but the real truth will come out (as with any law) when their management plans are created in the next few years. The OHV open area designations will make these areas much stronger. Right now they are open because the BLM allows it but should a conflict arise we could definitely lose.

With Federal designations, these areas would be much harder to close. If you look at the bill carefully, you will see a net increase in miles of trails created. Feinstein added sections to help get OHV people to support this bill. Some environmentalists hate this bill because it does help OHV. Some off-roaders hate this bill because of the wilderness designations. So if OHV leadership doesn't love this legislation, why would they support it? Because there is a not so veiled threat that the president will use his power under the Antiquities Act to designate the monuments and not give OHV anything. If this happens, it could take a long time, if ever, to designate these open areas. Congressman Cook, has introduced very similar but not identical legislation in the house of Representatives. SDORC and a number of other OHV organizations suppor this legislation. Could this legislation be better for us? Of course it could be but in our current political system, this may be the best we can get as far as some sort of protection, and it is pretty good! - Ed Stovin



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