BLM - Ridgecrest Field Office
ORV WATCH has always heartily supported Ridgecrest BLM Field Office's Law Enforcement grant requests over the years. We unequivocally respect and value our hard-working BLM Rangers. With regard to Law Enforcement staff, Ridgecrest BLM is sorely understaffed, given the challenges of increasing illegal OHV use. That being said, we have serious issues with the Ridgecrest Field Office's lack of transparency in revealing how OHMVR Division grant funds have been utilized.
The Ridgecrest Field Office issued a notice of proposed action on February 14, 2014, pertaining to construction of resource protection fences along the Kiavah and Bright Star Wilderness boundaries. The document states that off-route vehicle incursions into Wilderness areas have become chronic, and that attempts to stop incursions over the years have been entirely unsuccessful.
This document prompted ORV WATCH staff to request statistics and data from the Field Office with regard to law enforcement efforts undertaken during the grant cycle of the last fiscal year. Our request was met with silence from the field office.
During the last 16 months, illegal OHV damage to BLM parcels in the Tehachapi Mountains and the Pacific Crest Trail has exceeded anything we have witnessed in the last 6 years. The Ridgecrest Field office has taken no responsibility for the Tehachapi Mountain BLM parcels in their WEMO jurisdiction, and it is sadly apparent that illegal OHV use is out of control in other areas managed by the office. The Middle Knob is a spaghetti bowl of illegal "user created" routes. Wilderness areas are unprotected from ongoing lawless riders.
Item 1 of the proposed project states:
"Equipment, vehicles, and enforcement personnel funded by the grant will be utilized to detect and deter, interdict, and prosecute illegal OHV operations."
The OHMVR Division is obligated to scrutinize the efficacy of these law enforcement goals. Clearly grant funds have not been utilized effectively, as is evidenced by the sharp increase in illegal OHV activity in Eastern Kern County. The OHMVR Division and the public needs to know why. How can the funds be used more judiciously? What is the root cause of Ridgecrest BLM's failure in containing illegal OHV use on public lands? How can BLM management maximize efforts to curtail lawless riders?
We need honest answers to these questions. ORV Watch Kern County Steering Committee, Jan Alford, Jon Rogers, Sandi Tardiff - 4/2/14