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Power Tools

  TOOLS TO PROTECT YOUR ACCESS

Even before the Forest Service Travel Management Rule (TMR) was final, the gang at the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) got all the national OHV advocacy groups land use experts together and gave them a job to do.

NOHVCC produces the worlds best (no lie) OHV Route Designation and Management Workshops on the planet. I attended my first when I was working for the Utah Shared Access Alliance years ago. Fabulous stuff.

NOHVCC knew that the TMR would change the playing field, and they need to update the curriculum and there was little time to do it. Then Chief Dale Bosworth had issued direction to all National Forest Supervisors to implement the TMR immediately.

Dick Dufourd, who is a member of the NOHVCC pros, helped BRC put together BlueRibbon Coalition's land use handbook. We call it: "How to Work with Land Management Agencies, A Handbook for Clubs And Individuals."

The handbook is designed to help individuals and organizations participate in the public land management planning process. The idea was to develop a handbook that would help OHV enthusiasts understand the process and how to use it to their advantage. Learn the rules of the process - apply the rules in the process. Savvy?

The first part of our handbook is maybe the most important. We call it "the Power Tools," eleven key 'tips and pointers' that are critical.

Get the entire handbook and more info on NOHVCC's workshops by calling Ric Foster at: 208-237-1008 ext. 2.

 But first, let's look at the 11 basic rules for dealing with land management agencies:

 POWER TOOLS

# 1: USE THE CHAIN OF COMMAND

Recognize that there is a chain of command and respect it.

We will talk about politics later, but we can quickly make a political enemy by needlessly bypassing one or more links in the chain of command. When dealing with an issue, always start at the lowest appropriate level. Don't go to the District Ranger if you don't like the way the Recreation Technician put up a trail sign, before you have talked to the Recreation Technician. On the flip side, don't be afraid to move up one link in the chain if you don't get the response or answers you want at the lower level.


# 2: BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE

Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good

In many respects, the game of land use is a game of compromise. The very nature of compromise means that you will give up something to get something. In addition, the OHV community is not politically active, which means that we often end up with less than you started with.

Tool Tip:
All too often, recreationists are put in the position of responding to travel plans developed by the land managers, or worse, one submitted by an anti-access group. Think outside the parameters presented. Look for opportunities for adding routes, or respond by formulating your own travel plan. Never be afraid to ask for adequate quantity of trail-based recreational experience that will meet the present and future needs. Land managers rarely suggest the "maximum recreation" alternative, so if we want to ensure adequate opportunity you will need to suggest it yourself.


# 3: GET INVOLVED

Land Use Planning is a public involvement process, so you must be involved.

We need to be honest here. No national OHV advocacy group can save your roads and trails for you. BRC and other state and national groups can offer much in the way of assistance, but if the local recreation community doesn't get involved, nobody will. It takes time, it takes effort and it can be extremely frustrating at times. However - we are continually amazed at what a few dedicated people can accomplish.

Tool Tip:
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to simply get on the land manager's mailing list. The Forest Service and most BLM offices issue a quarterly update of all their planning projects. This is often called the "Schedule of Proposed Actions" (or SOPA). This document lists all projects either on-going or proposed in your area.

Tool Tip:
The president of your club can't be responsible for everything and land use can take a lot of time. Find someone in your club who is interested in land use and make that person your Land Use Director. The Director reads the SOPA and reports to the club on what issues are going on and what actions are needed.


# 4: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

The more you know about the process, the more you can make it work for you

Anti-access groups know the process and have paid staff to ensure the process works for them. We are new to the game and don't have paid staff, so we need to work smarter and harder to turn our past losses into future wins.

Tool Tip:
Knowledge is power; therefore, learn everything you can about NEPA and the planning process. Granted, reading about NEPA isn't exactly our preference for bedtime reading, but you need to learn it. Nearly every BLM field office and Forest Service district office has a NEPA Specialist- often referred to as NEPA Nerds. These folks know NEPA and love to talk about it. Find out who your local nerd is and talk to him/her. They are often the person listed on the scoping letter as "send comments to:" They will help you understand the process. More importantly, they will learn who their "interested public" is and you will have the opportunity to explain your position and help them understand your activity. That's right, they probably don't pursue your form of recreation and don't understand why you do- knowledge is power. Educate them.


# 5: PUT IT IN WRITING

If it isn't in writing, it didn't happen.

This is one of the most important things for access advocates, and it's also one that folks too often forget to do. We must face the reality that the good ol' days of a handshake and a smile are gone.

Tool Tip:
Agency people transfer or retire; verbal agreements can be forgotten; agency goals and priorities change. Your input must be in writing no matter how well you know agency personnel or how many meetings you attend. Likewise, any agency agreements or commitments must be in writing.

Tool Tip:
Whenever a project comes up that you are interested in, start a project file and keep a record of everything related to this project: scoping letter, SOPA, all correspondence, notes from telephone conversations, newspaper articles, notes from public meetings, etc. Do this at the beginning of a project, not when things start going wrong.


# 6: DON'T ASSUME

Don't assume that someone else will look out for your best interests.

Again, the days of the "good ol' boy" are gone. You may have a good friend in the local agency office, but that person is still an agency employee who must act and respond to agency policies and priorities. If you don't have a friend in the local office, read and heed this tool tip.

Tool Tip:
Does your local district ranger, field manager, or recreation specialist know who you are and what your interest is? They won't know what you want them to know unless you tell them. It's not that hard- they're real people. Pick up the phone and make and appointment to talk to them. Again, knowledge is power, so educate them.


# 7: ASK FOR HELP

There is often a lack of knowledge and understanding about motorized recreation within the agencies.

There are a lot of resources available to land managers who lack specific motorized trail based management expertise. Have your local BLM'er or Forest Service recreation staff contact BRC and learn about the resources available to help them manage OHV use.

Tool Tip:
Take your local agency personnel out on a field trip so they can learn about you and your sport. It is of the utmost importance that they have fun and have a positive experience. We don't want tired people and we don't want hurt people, so keep it short and keep it easy. A good forum to consider is a mock poker run with a BBQ in the middle for a lunch break. This is easy to set up, its fun, and most agency personnel have no idea what a poker run is. Knowledge is power.


# 8: SPEAK UP

Attending a meeting is not the same as speaking at a meeting

No one will know who you are or what your interest is if you just sit with your arms folded across your chest and listen to everyone else. We often hear; "I can wrench my bike, but I can't get up and talk in front of other people. Let someone else do it." Number one, there is no one else. Number two, we are mom and pop representing the grass roots of America; we don't have to be smooth; we don't have to be polished; we don't have to be eloquent; but we do have to be calm and we do have to be polite. Most of us can do that, so let's do it.


# 9: DON'T COUNT ON HISTORICAL USE

Historical use does not guarantee future use.

You can never assume that just because you've always done an activity that you'll always be able to do that activity. We hear it all the time; "That road has been open for 50 years!" It's sad to say, but it doesn't matter. The land managers do not factor that into the equation. Today, each road or trail must "add something" to the transportation system. We can no longer rely on historical use as a reason to keep roads and trails open. Rather, we must tell the land manager why it should be open, and what features the road or trail has that makes it an enjoyable recreation experience.


# 10: EXTERNAL 3Ps: Politics, Politics, Politics.

District Rangers, Forest Supervisors, Field Managers, and District Managers are the decision makers and they operate in the political arena. Their job is to "serve" the public and to try to make "balanced" decisions, but politics goes a long way in determining who is served and what is balanced. Clark Collins, Blue Ribbon Coalition Founder, has a famous story about this when he was told that he wasn't going to win an issue because he was "politically insignificant." At the time, that was true, but that statement drove Clark into action and through the 3 P's in #10 became politically significant and won. It boils down to our choice: we can whine and snivel, remain insignificant, and lose; or we can whine and snivel, take charge, become significant, and win.

Tool Tip:
WE MUST ENTER THE POLITICAL ARENA. When the staff at BRC was preparing our Member Handbook, Clark Collins, BRC's Founder came into our office and closed the door behind him. (Whenever Clark Collins closes the door behind him, you know something important is about to be said.)

Clark told us:
"The single most important thing to do during a planning process is to establish a close working relationship with the local staff of your elected representatives. Those relationships can influence the process and will help you keep roads and trails open."

Tool Tip:
There's an old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows and it's true. This is a game of politics. We may have philosophical differences that will never be resolved, but NEVER alienate anybody- even the wilderness advocate. You and the equestrian or you and the mountain biker may be working shoulder to shoulder on the next issue.


# 11: Internal 3 P's: Patience, Persistence, Pressure.

We don't become politically significant overnight; we don't always win; the land use battles never stop; there can be a high level of frustration; and these planning processes can take years to complete. But again, if we don't have these 3 P's, we're not committed and we're not in the game.

Tool Tip:
We all have a comfort zone where we feel warm, fuzzy, and safe, but at some point, we have to force ourselves out of that comfort zone and take action. How much are we willing to lose? Who else is going to do it? We must start now.

NOHVCC gathered the best of the best from the National OHV groups. The groups helping develop the new curriculum were:

Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC)
Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA)
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA)
National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC)
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)
BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC)
United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA)

 Download a PDF of Power Tools HERE.