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Southern California Mountains Foundation

 I am making comments regarding the Grant Application that the Forest Service is applying for at Baldy Mesa Trails this spring. I have read over the entire grant application and there are things that I agree with and items I think you need to further address.  It would be very beneficial if the Forest Service could install the large steel pipes that would be cemented into the ground and have road crossing barriers set up so that OHVers could not cut through the fencing to get onto the trails except at designated areas. The other item that is positive would be hiring more law enforcement officers that would be on foot to enforce the rules at Baldy Mesa Trails. These officers need to be there on a regular basis if the Forest Service expects the trails not to be destroyed. Also they need these officers to keep the OHVers off the closed trails that the Forest Service is going to set barriers up at, if they are going to successfully revegetate those trails. The grant is addressing these concerns and that is a positive step.

The Forest Service is still not addressing the problem concerning the bisecting of the Mormon/Sanford Trail which is an historical trail. This trail needs to be preserved and not allowed to be used by OHVers.  I still have concerns about the second loop trail that you are making which will go closer to the Phelan residents property than it is at the present time.  This trail will cause additional noise for the residents which is already an existing problem. Don Fischer, Sierra Club Representative, San Gorgonio Chapter - 3/11/14

 The Baldy Mesa area has historically been a popular hiking and equestrian use area - until OHV destruction and lawlessness was introduced:  
The SBNF and SCMF installed t-post fence and restored many unsightly hill climbs in the Baldy Mesa area starting in 2007, however the intense unlawful use of this area by OHV enthusiasts requires continued extensive maintenance due to fence theft and continued unlawful access.......
Law Enforcement officials from the San Bernardino National Forest stated that unauthorized routes throughout the National Forest have become a “lawless” condition (2009). According to the Forest Service, most all of these unauthorized routes have been created by off route travel from motorcycles, ATVs and visitors that depart from authorized trails.
 
To reward this unlawful activity with increased trails does not fix the problem. Rather, it encourages it.
Can the restoration part of this project go forward without expanding the trail system and without expanding the staging area. Can the staging area include an equestrian unit? 
 
More work needs to be done on a plan to encourage legal and varied use including re-establishing hiking trails and equestrian trails and working on an interpretive program.
 
Evaluation criteria: #9 -
9. The Project improves or creates a new trail that provides motorized access to the following nonmotorized recreation opportunities:6
This answer and 6 points must be reevaluated as there are no designated hiking or equestrian trails in the area and there is no new trail to encourage hunting.
Hikers and equestrians are not served by an invitation to use the green sticker OHV trails. They are not served by allowing them to use no trail and bush whack through the chaparral.
 
Although when you look at the damage it may seem that the area is used only by OHVs, the extensive comments from neighbors and others shows that low impact recreation is being displaced by the inclusion of OHV use.
Green sticker OHV use has a huge negative impact on and deters other types of recreation because of the noise, dust, destruction of viewshed, destruction of natural resources, destruction of historical resources, unlawful activity (off trail riding etc.), erosion etc. 
Evaluation Criteria #10. Underlying Problem - Q 10.
10. The underlying problem that resulted in the need for the Restoration Project has been effectively addressed and resolved prior to this Application:3
 
Unauthorized routes in this project area were closed as a result of SBNF Travel Management NEPA in 2009. This NEPA identified the problem and authorized closure and restoration. The 2013 Baldy Mesa Environmental Assessment and Decision Notice of No Significant Impact addressed and approved restoration activities. 

This project will utilize extensive permanent barricades to reinforce existing closures. In addition to barricades, over the performance period we will decompact soils and revegetate these routes. This location has also recently become a priority for SBNF law enforcement and monitoring staff to ensure riders remain in designated routes, thus the underlying problem has been resolved. The forest is also working with county law enforcement to increase management of the area.Is this question correctly answered? In another statement, the applicant has mentioned failed restoration with fencing in 2007. The applicant states briefly that the area has been identified as a problem area and that the problem has been resolved by recognizing it as a priority. But what IS the problem? I think the problem is that the area is not suitable for sustained OHV use. It has little potential for OHV use, and it is too limited for the desires of many OHV riders. Expansion may seem appropriate, but that expansion will still not be enough and there are too many biological and archaeological sites to take into consideration. Expansion will negatively impact private properties along the boundary and also it will have a negative impact on other types of recreation. 
 
This is an area that has habitat for more than 10 special status species, extensive cultural sites from different ages in history, and a wash/riparian area that has been impacted by illegal riding.
 
This is a small area for OHVs, but one that is quite adequate for hiking and equestrian use as well as RC flying and other low impact recreation.  I do not believe that the planned expansion of trails for green sticker use will solve the problem of riders unlawfully creating trails and engaging in hillclimbing.
 
Is it possible to close the area to green sticker use while the miles and miles of illegal trails are restored and protections put into place for the private property boundary, many biological and archaeological resources in the area?
 
Monitoring and patrol needs to take place on weekends, holidays and evenings. Jenny Wilder - 3/28/14

 Please see my comments on G13-04-02-R01 and G13=02-14-D01 below:

The Baldy Mesa area has (was) been a favorite and historic hiking and equestrian site, but over the recent decade inconsiderate and unlawful OHV users have "trashed " the area.  Even after several attempts at restoration using taxpayer dollars, the area is still vandalized by these users. 

I believe these grant proposals are valid attempts at trying to remedy a criminal situation, but they are going at it in the wrong way.  Rewarding illegal acts with a trail system and an expanded area where the use is not sustainable is a waste of taxpayer's dollars and an offense to private property owners, public land stewards as well as anyone that appreciates our public lands.

Evaluation #9 received 6 points.  This is far too high since the proposal results in pushing hikers and equestrians away due to OHV nuisance.
Evaluation #10 received 3 points.  This is invalid since the area should be closed to OHV use. It is setting up this area for destruction of cultural and archeological artifacts, user and neighbor conflicts, erosion and habitat destruction.

In summary, the proposals should close the area to OHV use, restore the habitat and the hiking and equestrian trails and make a suitable staging area for those low-impact activities. Pam Nelson, Santa Margarita group/San Gorgonio chapt./Sierra Club Chair - 3/29/14

 We are happy to support the yeoman endeavors listed in the SCMF's grant request for restoration funds.  It is stunning to learn that 55 miles of illegal OHV trails have proliferated over the years throughout the SBNF.  We are in support of repairing damaged trails without further expanding new OHV trails.

The evidence of extensive lawless OHV use should cause the USFS to seriously consider closing temporary trails and limiting the use of trails to street legal vehicles. ORV Watch Kern County Steering Committee, Jan Alford, Jon Rogers, Sandi Tardiff - 4/2/14

#  Project Type       Project Title                  Grant Request      Match Total       Project Cost

1  G13-04-02-R01 Baldy Mesa Restoration 1,105,422          388,611            1,494,033
2  G13-04-02-S01 Education & Safety              96,281          304,907              401,188
3  TOTAL                                                      1,201,703          693,518            1,895,221


5. For Applicant’s OHV grant Projects which reached the end of the Project performance period within the last two years, the percentage of all Projects closed out in accordance with Program regulations:

Restoarion (their mis-spelling): G08-04-02-R01; Grant Period 7/1/09 - 6/30/12 & G09-04-02-R01; Grant Period 8/11/10 - 8/10/13   Safety & Ed: G10-04-02-S01; Grant Period: 7/13/11 - 7/12/12 & G11-04-02-S01; Grant Period 7/13/12 - 7/12/13
           
It was filled in as 100% of deliverable accomplished yet I’ve personally been in these areas lately and have not seen ANYTHING resembling full completion of these projects.


7. Prevention of OHV trespass – Patrol (Page 6)
b. The majority of OHV Opportunity areas are patrolled:

They checked at least 5 days per week but it should be at least once per week because the volunteers don’t go out 5 times a week, the forest service does but not the volunteers.  This is a grant application for the OHV program.


10. Sound Level Testing – Applicant or LM conducts, testing on individual OHVs.

Based on what they have marked (50% or more holidays and weekends) as I interpret this meaning, staff or volunteers are out every other weekend doing sound checks.  That would be 26 weeks per year.  25% would be once a month and seems more accurate, no points should be given.


11. OHV Education – Education materials available onsite:

b. Applicant or LM provides formal programs, education talks, school field trips, etc. to the public to educate them on safe and responsible OHV recreational practices.  Count only scheduled events; do not include routine visitor contacts:

They checked 50 or more per year, I question this because they only do 5 trade shows not 6 (can they provide a list of shows they’ve participated in?) Is the SCMF’s dealer liaison program providing presentations to new OHV enthusiasts on a monthly basis? Is this another name for the General Membership meetings?  A more realistic and honest score would be 5 to 19 times per year.  Also, you need to take into consideration that they have lowered their On the Right Trail presentations from 24 in 2011 to 15 in 2012 and NOW to a mere 6 in 2013.

d. ATV Safety Institute and/or Motorcycle Safety Foundation approved training courses are provided to the public:

This is not open to the public and they should not be given a point.  You have to a member of the volunteer program or a forest service employee.

12. Website:  b. The Applicant or Land Manager’s website contains the following OHV related items.

Why does the applicant get the points if this information is not on their own website?  After all, they are applying for an education grant.  In my opinion they should not get any points, I have been on their website and there is no educational content at all.  It is a PR fluff piece to RECRUIT VOLUNTEERS, but as a new rider, there is no information for me to know how to be safe on the trails.  There are no links from the OHV Volunteer site to the Forest Service website where all this information is found i.e. maps, contact information, etc.

Restoration Grant - Not in support of this Grant

1.) Staff:  They claim 100% of Projects closed out (10 points) but should be less than 75% (No points).  Now, why are they asking for another 3 positions at $40,000 each totaling $120,000?  A “Baldy Mesa Project Coordinator – I can possibly understand one (1) position but why three (3)?  Within their own submission list, #3, the element of ‘recruiting…and monitoring volunteers” is mentioned.  This very element is supposed to be handled by the Volunteer Coordinator – a position they apply for grant funding for within their Safety & Education Grant to the tune of $48,000 a year PLUS $10,000 in personal vehicle fuel expenses.  Could this turn out to be “double dipping”?  If so, it should be disallowed.

SCMF has claimed that they will coordinate an average of 4,243 volunteer hours/year for 3 years totaling 12,730 of donated hours for the baldy mesa restoration.  They futher claim that Volunteers perform work for
the SCMF valued at the CA independent sector rate of $24.75/hour.  Then why is SCMF asking to employ & train an eight person crew through Urban Conservation Corps for 12 months work (4 mo/year) at the rate of $22.41/service hour?  $344,208 is ALOT of money to cover salaries, not to mention crew uniforms, mileage, supervisors, etc.  They brag so heavily about the work of the OHV Volunteers AND of the Adopt-A-Trail Program so why not utilize them?  Maybe it’s about money once again.

A better solution would be to use or rely on groups like Boy Scouts of America or Sierra Club to provide the labor and match for this grant.  Bottom line, it appears they are spending too much money on employees
 
Safety and Education Grant - Not in support of this Grant

Based on only 1.5 million dollars available for the entire state, this Grant applicant is asking for just under 10% of the available funds.  The available funds need to be shared   more evenly throughout all the Grant applicants.  Below are my recommendations for this Grant applicant.

Staff: OHV Program Coordinator position should be for a total of 30 hours per week.  Why would the tax payers allow for the funding of $48,000 for a position that’s main objective is “recruiting” new volunteers for this “CLUB”?  In 2012, this applicant  proposed 24 ORT presentations.  Then in 2013, they have decreased by half.  Now, in 2014, it has been cut once again to a mere six (6) yet they are asking for more money for less deliverables.  This is not a sound business practice and proper use of funds.  Looks a lot like more money for less work to me.

Material and Supplies: In the categories of Brochures and Signs, they seem redundant.  There are printing costs associated with each category and it should be a bundled request not separated.  They are asking for more money then is actually needed, $20,000 seems excessive for printing needs for one year. In 2012, they were granted $8,000 minus the match and seemed to do just fine.  They are more then doubling the costs of last year this seems suspicious. Especially in today’s world of technology, they can put these materials on line and people can chose to print for themselves. 

Equipment Use Expenses:

Other – Mileage Reimbursement – It seems that the amount being requested can be reduced to approximately $3000… Not the proposed $10,735 as they claim.  How about they use a monthly stipend of $100 per month for travel as this would require the employee to keep track of his/her mileage and receipts for gas.  (The volunteers do not receive reimbursement or a stipend for their gas/mileage).  Also, they have access to Forest Service vehicles to travel from the office which would reduce they amount they are requesting.

Equipment Purchase - Other: In 2013, the SCMF asked for $18,000 to fund a Mobile Education Kiosk – that was $18,000 for a branding message.  They received this and I have only ever seen this vehicle at ONE (1) trade show, the Sand Sports Super Show and NOT ANY OTHERS.  This appears to be yet another “recruitment tool” and a waste of tax payer’s money.

Other – Trade Show Fees – They claim that funds go towards exhibiter fees for the Off-Road Expo in Pomona, CA & the Intl Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA.  SCMF further claims this as an increase to cover space for their large mobile education exhibit created with OHMVR funds last year.  This group also claims they were unable to bring it to these events due to lack of funding last year.  When they were at the Off Road Expo, they were openly & actively “RECRUITING” new volunteers from the attending public.  They continue to do this at ALL shows they attend.  Why are public funds being utilized by a “private club” for the purpose of recruitment?

Other – Indirect Costs – Listed by SCMF as the indirect rate of Administrative Costs that include salaries, rents, supplies and communication.  Why is this request so vague and ambiguous?

For an education and safety grant there is not much being asked for on either point; education or safety.  This is a fluff piece grant and the money should be used to further educate the public on safety. Drew A - 4/7/14

 First, I would like to say I own 7+ green sticker vehicles that I renew every year without placing them into PNO status.  Further, I cotribute to the GS fund by way of my taxes collected from the fuel tax.  Being a self-described large contributor to the fund, I must make my opposition known to the funding of various questionable aspects of the SBNFA OHV Program.
 
I need to make it known that I have first-hand experience with the dealings, agenda and manner of operation of the OHV arm of the SBNFA as well as the SBNF.  Within the Restoration and Safety Grants, it shows this "private club" is asking for a lot money for staffing.  I find this quite troubling as they have shown themselves to be exclusionary and prohibitive when it comes to how they treat their own volunteers, let alone any who wish to re-join after a short absence.  Personally, I know of more than a few that have been told not to bother coming back as well as flat-out expelling members with no explanation as to why.  This is seen as disenfranchisement by myself and many others.
 
They exclaim that their volunteers do "patrols" and are the eyes & ears of the USFS.  It is a fact that they are discouraged from addressing the public if the public is doing something wrong and/or acting in a way that can damage natural resouces.  These patrols are merely "fun runs" and nothing more than a sight-seeing adventure for a vast majority that claim they are out contacting the public.  A "friendly wave" while traveling by 4x4, ATV or motorcycle, at any member of the public while out on a "patrol" denotes a virtual in-person verbal education in their eyes and they count this as such when applying for the much coveted "points" with regards to MY OHV funds.  SBNFA claims they "patrol" 5+ days a week when, by their own records, they log less 10 "patrols" a month.  This does not seem fair nor does it seem right.

A great majority, if not all, of the work that gets done within the OHV program is through the volunteer base.  Within the Restoration Grant. they are asking for funding for three additional positions, in addition to my GS fund payment to the Urban Conservation Core at $270,000 for the next three years for 90 days of work.  I thought this was what their Adopt-A-Trail Program was for.  Why don't they use the match to cover these expenses within the volunteers or better yet, have they looked into other off-road or other clubs that are experienced and already established for this type of work to come in and partner with them?  I am sorry to say that I do not support their Restoration Grant.
 
Now, as far as the Safety and Education Grant, I do not support this either for a number of reasons. The SBNFA is asking for more money again for employees where they should be using volunteers.  Such an action would cut the cost not only of salaries but also with reimbursable items (i.e. a car allowance).  Their staff currently has, at their disposal, access to USFS vehicles.  Why are those not being used instead of paying for mileage?  If the volunteers are taking care of these new positions, this would not be an issue either.  As a volunteer, they are "volunteering" their time and resources.  Why is the SBNFA asking for my tax dollars to fund employees of an organization that amounts to nothing more than a "private club"?  This question leaves me terribly vexed and perplexed.
 
Lastly, another item that stands out disturbingly is the signage on the trailer.  How can $18,000 be justified for a branding message?  I find this quite excessive as a normal wrap with logos should run no more than five to seven grand tops.  Where is the remaining eleven to thirteen grand going to be used and how?  They mention an outdoor sound system?  Good grief.  My largest concern is why I find nothing in their grant application that has anything remotely to do with educatiing the public about the need to stay on the designated trails.  One would think someone would ask for materials to better educate the program volunteers and/or the public then a branding message worth $18,000.
 
In closing, I thank those involved for taking the time to review my questions and comments.  Money should be allocated to those who use it properly and wisely. James Haubner - 4/7/14

 My comments in regards to the Restoration (G 11-04-02-R 01) as well as the Education & Safety (G 11-04-02-S 01) grants submitted by this group are as follows:

Restoration


This group is asking for green sticker funds to provide salaries to staff for their program when it seems no other group seeks anything even remotely resembling this.  A restoration Co-Coordinator to the tune of 48 thousand dollars a year seems quite outlandish in my opinion when they already have submitted requests to fund other staff over the years.  A 40-hour work week would come to an amount just shy of 2000 hours for a calendar year.  Therefore, why have they asked for 3000 plus hours for such a position?  How would this relate to overtime in regards to labor laws?   This does not add up.  What have we gotten for our money thus far?

A few simple questions were posed to the SBNFA OHV paid staff member in attendance by Mr. Waldheim at a grant seminar public forum held at the SBNF Supervisors Office just a few weeks ago.  This person seemed unprepared for those questions and left many in attendance scratching our heads with OHV program issues left unaddressed.  Other organizations submitting grants do far more with less of our money:  a fact supported by the content of every other grant submission posted to this public site.  The positions of education outreach coordinator and volunteer coordinator should be combined for a total of 30 hours a week as this would seem more sensible given the strained resource funds available for this year.

Volunteers have reportedly donated over 28 thousand hours over the last fiscal year.  Yet, the program is asking for our tax dollars to fund a restoration project in the amount of 640 thousand dollars.  Again, another submission that looks to be quite excessive when it seems the Adopt-A-Trail program volunteers does a great majority of these very same duties… and virtually at no cost to the green sticker funds as far as I can tell.  The volunteer hours submitted for the match appear to be inflated – quite possible that an audit is in order.


Education & Safety

In my opinion, this issue is of the most importance as with more proper education of the OHV public comes less resource damage… at least one would hope for as much. 
 
They state their program is open to the public yet there is no internet forum available to the general OHV public for sake of transparency.  This should be mandatory for any organization requesting public funds.  Otherwise, this should be deemed a private “members-only” club in the eyes of the OHMVR and not subject to receiving public funds for closed functions and/or meetings.  Are all members of the public welcome to their monthly “general membership” meeting?  The Adopt-A-Trail OHV has been practicing this aspect at their meetings thus far so this should be practiced in regards to this group as well.  Transparency should be a strong and lasting requirement.

A request for 18 thousand dollars for a mobile kiosk also seems far fetched.  After all, is this for education or recruitment?  This amount would be better served as going toward education in schools and other community area events.  Last year, a total of 24 visits to local schools had been submitted yet now that number has lessened to just over half of that (15).  Why the reduction in education?  Again, this should be paramount.

This brings me to the issue of 11 thousand dollars for mileage.  Why such an exorbitant figure has been submitted is beyond me.  Any other agency would be requesting 14 cents a mile so why do they feel worthy of 55 cents a mile?  Further, they are requesting 750 dollars for admission to trade shows and other promoter-sanctioned events.  I am currently involved with various off-road non-profits and our group has attended four shows which were also attended by the SBNFA plus four others they were not present for.  We have yet to pay a single dime for a group such as ours who promotes responsible off-road use and education.  Therefore, why the 750 dollars for six events?

In the categories of brochures and signs, there are requesting much more money than would ever seem prudent.  20 thousand dollars seems over the top for one calendar year.  Just last year, they did quite well with 8 thousand minus the match and did just fine by all accounts.  Simply place this information on line and let the public choose to print pertinent information as needed.

In years past I have made strenuous attempts to show support for this applicant.  After thorough review of this application, I am sorry to say I am NOT in support of their full funding for either the restoration or the education & safety grants as submitted.

In closing, it must be noted that this group has, within its heart, the wish to do a world of good for my beloved San Bernardino National Forest off-road trail system.  They have demonstrated this factor to varying extents over the 15+ years of their existence.  Though the last year or so has seen a measurable lessoning of their member base and subsequent divergence from the intended message of its founders, they still manage to hold on.  This being said, the fact remains that our state has reduced the funds available in regards to the education category.  From 2.3 million to 1 million available funds for the entire state, this Grant applicant is asking for over 10% of the available funds.  Such provisions awards may deny others of much needed assistance.  I believe it would be best for the available funds to be shared more evenly throughout all the Grant applicants. Dan Simmerman - 4/7/14

 I strongly support this grant application to restore 55+ miles of illegal trails, erect signage and fencing, grow and use native plants to re-vegetate, and provide volunteer patrols.  I do not support further expansion of the Baldy Mesa area with new OHV trails.  It is extremely important to correct existing underlying problems before expansion is allowed.
 
It also also extremely important to erect the fencing along the northern boundary of Forest Service land/private property to prevent illegal access through the residential community of Phelan.  Walk-overs for horses and hikers at regular intervals, preferably less than one mile apart, are very important as well.  All of this should be done regardless of whether or not the proposed new OHV trail goes forward.
 
Item 10, page 18, requires further review.  The illegal routes "closed" by the SBNF Travel Management NEPA of 2009 were closed on paper only.  In reality, they are very much open and easily accessible.  Thus, the underlying problem that resulted in the need for a restoration project has not been resolved.  Unfortunately, in the 5 years since the 2009 NEPA, the Forest Service has done nothing to "close" the illegal routes in the real world. Lygeia Gerard - 4/7/14

 G13-04-04-02-R01 and G13-02-14-D01 These two proposals compliment each other and I support both.
As a person who recreates in the San Bernardino National Forest and rides an ATV I appreciate the benefits these proposals will bring to the forest. The Baldy Mesa area is heavily used and the usage increases each year as more people take up motorized recreation. The Baldy Mesa area is very popular, in part, because it is very easy to access from local freeways, as well as, being close to a large semi-rural residential area with many ATV and motorcycle riders.

Folks from out of the area can easily trailer into the staging areas, while the local residents just drive to the end of their street and are on the forest. This ease of access has caused numerous problems for other local residents and lead to many user-created non-authorized “trails” being created, and often activly improved and maintained by users.

The recently approved new trail authorizations will increase the controllability of this activity. The restoration grant will significantly improve the safety and responsible use of the area. By increasing the control with better signage and increased monitoring and restricting the casual entry to certain authorize points all users benefit.

By restoring the user-created trails to a more natural condition there will be less likelyhood on those trails being re-established, thus allowing the areas to recover more rapidly and more fully.

In reading the comments of others, I notice that many seem to be arguing about the existence of ANY ATV usage in the area, rather than discussing the restoration or control of use proposals. I doubt that is the purpose of this comment area and period.  CT Alderson - 4/7/14

 G-13-04-02-S01 - As a recreational user of the San Bernardino National Forest since 1956, I strongly support the proposed projects of the Southern California Mountains Foundation’s Education/Safety program for 2014+. Over the years I have seen the benefit to the forest and those who recreate in the forest from their OHV education and safety activities. I believe that the new proposals will continue these fine earlier programs.

The recreating public is increasingly adapting motorized forms of recreation. Often they do not realize the increased potential impact that motorizing their activities poses to the places where they recreate. They are not intending to cause harm, but often have no idea what harm they are causing. This program addresses that problem by direct teaching by other persons who understand and enjoy the same motorized recreation activities as the new participants. The new participants (and older participants who have forgotten) learn how and why they need to learn and follow the rules. This reduces irresponsible and illegal use. This benefits the forest directly and the whole State indirectly. The good habits they learn in the forest carry over to other State and private areas that they also recreate in.

I am especially impressed by the trailside and staging area educational booth/kiosks run by SCMF. These enthusiastic fellow recreators are right in the thick of the recreational use. They have great credibility with the audience because they can discuss the areas that the learner has just seen and is shortly to see. Their concerns on responsible use and safety therefore are better received and more readily accepted.. Their input is immediate and the learning public can apply the lessons within minutes as they continue there recreational activities. CT Alderson - 4/7/14