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USFS - Eldorado NF Patrol District

I’m not sure where to even start with my comments against this grant application.  I feel that the law enforcement that has occurred in the Eldorado National Forest to this point has not had OHV interests in mind at all.  There is very little real cooperation by the USFS officers and the other agencies which are present.  There is no consistent law enforcement “story,” the other agencies (state parks and EDSO) seem to be better trained and more respectful of OHV users and the OHV opportunities, and I feel that the USFS is already placing a burden on the OHV fund and taxpayers by over-enforcing the area.

In particular, the request for almost $200,000 for enforcement seems outrages to me.  Is the USFS really asking the OHV fund to purchase a tracked vehicle for almost $25,000, and vehicle maintenance for another $15,000?  It sounds to me like the USFS has found a “pot of gold” that they want to raid just like the rest of the government.  It is time to put an end to supporting blatant over expenditures requested by the USFS. [Morgan DeRodeff - 4/4/11]

I’m happy to see the Forest prioritizing OHV enforcement at popular OHV areas, especially Barrett Lake Jeep Trail and Rubicon Trail. As a regular Rubicon volunteer, I particularly appreciate the Rubicon-related education/enforcement portions of this grant – that includes the Rubicon Trail itself, its trailheads, and access roads. In specific context to the Rubicon Trail, I did not see much LEO presence from ENF forest protection officers and LEOs on the trail in 2010, but I look forward to it in 2011. The LEO presence that I did see was principally limited to traffic enforcement on Highway 50, Icehouse Road, and Wentworth Springs Road.
Enforcement is more than just a simple issue of quantity (though working up from nearly nothing, that would seem to be an improvement) – we need balanced enforcement displaying appropriate levels of both social and professional interaction. While I understand that license/registration checks are necessary, I hope that ENF enforcement efforts will give higher-priority to enforcing against something more impactful than these ‘paperwork’ violations. As well, we need something closer to ‘community enforcement’ of all Forest Users, and not heavy-handed enforcement that appears to unfairly focus on OHV users while allowing other users to simply drive by. OHV grant funding needs to protect OHV *resources* without focusing unfairly on OHV *users* to the exclusion of other ENF users.
Generally, beyond the access routes, I have not seen much OHV enforcement on the actual 4x4 and OHV trails and would hope that this will change as a result of funding this grant – indeed, much of my support is contingent upon it. Some LEOs believe that a highly-modified 4x4 vehicle is critical for enforcing OHV routes, but time and time again we find that officers on foot bring provide the best education and enforcement, followed a distant second by officers on motorcycles or quads. Frankly, I think that 4x4s insulate the officers when they are on the trail and impair their ability to contact, engage, and be most effective. One set of priorities that I don’t think are particularly of value is the stated intention to focus patrols on “sensitive ecological areas include meadows, streams and stream crossings along designated routes, sensitive plant occurrences and sensitive wildlife habitat identified through the travel management analysis, and sensitive cultural resources close to designated roads and trails.” Unless these resources are receiving active abuse from OHV users specifically, I believe that focused patrols on nearby roads and OHV trails could keep education and enforcement officers in the area to engage as necessary for any OHV violations on these sites. It makes little sense to me to prioritize enforcement on empty, unmarked, untrafficked sites, otherwise.
I continue to be disappointed to see how few motorized routes remain on this Forest after completion of the FEIS and ROD that came out of ENF’s Route Designation / Travel Management process, which is one of the reasons why I’m still working with Public Lands for the People in their lawsuit against ENF’s Route Designation actions. OHV lost thousands of miles of access to roads and trails in ENF but there have been no meaningful changes to Forest staffing to reflect how many fewer miles now need maintained or patrolled, and how many fewer months those services are needed courtesy of seasonal closures. I am also disappointed at how little of the Forest is left to cross-over uses such as OHVs used over-the-snow in the FEIS/ROD. Seasonal closures and ‘Managing away’ (a.k.a. ‘closing) roads to use by wheeled vehicles over-the-snow has lost us access to hundreds/thousands of miles of access to OHV opportunity, but ENF’s funding requests continue unabated… you’d think that fewer miles of opportunity might correspond to fewer grant dollars required, but that certainly isn’t reflected in ENF’s grant requests. Let’s hope that the funds requested will result in a higher level of service on the routes that survived Travel Management.
The one thing that I definitely DO NOT support is purchase of over-the-snow vehicles for enforcement on Mormon Emmigrant Trail. ENF is currently denying the California Highway Patrol’s standard interpretation of vehicle code enforcement on MET – and it makes no sense to deny the state laws while asking for state funding. I’d love to support this request, but with ENF’s current stance on enforcement at MET, this portion of the grant merits a loud NEGATIVE!
I continue to support ENF’s emphasis on engaging enforcement through education, working with local user groups, and hope to see this continue and expand. Informational open houses at major trailheads would work particularly well – depending on the season, a hot cup of coffee or a cold bottle of water are great icebreakers between ENF staff and users, especially with so many rules changed as a result of Route Designation. Informal on-site forums like this will be invaluable to communicating rules changes to users, most of whom would try to be legal in the midst of an inscrutable system of seemingly ever-changing rules. This sort of visible appearance at trailheads not only helps with educating on changes in rules, but sends a visibly message to criminals that Forest staff is meaningfully on the trails. Local club meetings are another great way to get education out, and prioritizing attendance by a ENF representative will pay huge dividends in user awareness and buy-in. Please reach out to local clubs in the next years!
I’m looking forward to seeing ENF LEOs on the trails this year. With the exception of winter enforcement vehicles and hours on MET, I generally support this law enforcement grant and hope for the best for 2011.
Thank you for considering my comments. [Randy Burleson - 4/4/11]

G10-02-23-L01:  I cannot support this grant as written. Under Equipment purchases. UTV-with track system  20,655.00

The Eldorado Forest current lists that there are no places for ATVs to ride on the Forest during the seasonal closure. Having a UTV with tracks in not appropriate. It would not be used to patrol snowmobile trails, it would be used to patrol paved roads that are covered in snow. The Forest needs to get the over the snow travel policy straightened out before they can effectively decide how they will patrol a route. [Rick Ferdon - 4/1/11]