There's a process for everything -- getting a liquor license, obtaining a building permit, securing a bank loan -- and there is a process for resource management. The Northwest Colorado Steward--ship and the Bureau of Land Manage--ment are in the lengthy process of updating a nearly 20-year-old resource management plan. The plan, which encourages the public's input, could mean that off-highway vehicle users have significantly fewer acres of accessible terrain for recreational activities.
Last week's meeting of the Yampa Valley Vehicle Coalition was a showing of more than 70 people whose recreational activities depend on open trails. The consensus was expected -- OHV enthusiasts do not want to give up their sport in the name of wilderness. We think that OHV users should be able to have motorized recreation on public land, but they also should have to follow the proper process and compromise where necessary.
Nearly 71 percent of the current resource management area is open to OHV use, and that's with very little restriction. And, there's little doubt that the popularity of motorized recreation has increased exponentially in recent years.
Many OHV users would like to maintain the access they currently have. The BLM is required by law to consider that option while revising the management plan.
But the BLM also will consider that option's polar opposite -- closing all its public land to motorized use.
It's most likely that the final plan will fall somewhere between those extremes. But if OHV users want to make sure they preserve their ability to drive trucks, sport utility vehicles, dirt bikes or four-wheelers on public land, they are going to need to learn to compromise.
This is why NWCOS is playing such a significant role in the planning process. The citizen's group is neither an environmental organization nor an oil and gas lobby, even though representatives from both sides are part of the group. A wide range of public land interests has come together to develop, through a consensus process, a vision of how Northwest Colorado's public lands resources will be managed.
The BLM is going to take NWCOS recommendations seriously, because its members are going to have to compromise heavily before the process is over. The issue also could have potential ramifications in Moffat County, where the economy continually feels a boost from outdoor hounds visiting the Sandwash Basin and other popular off-road destinations. The recommendations NWCOS develops likely will tell the BLM some things the agency currently doesn't know.
The agency already knows that oil and gas companies want to drill everywhere that liquid mineral deposits lie. The agency knows wildlife advocates want large tracts of land protected as habitat. And it knows OHV users don't want any restrictions on where they ride.
But nobody is going to get everything they want.
One man at the Vehicle Coalition meeting suggested driving 10,000 four-wheelers to the BLM office. We assume he wanted to demonstrate to the BLM how many OHV users recreate on public land. Such a move would be a quick and easy way to try to get one's point across. It might even make OHV users feel good. But it wouldn't accomplish anything.
Revising the resource management plan isn't an easy process. That's why it takes several years.
If OHV users want to make sure they can ride on public land, they need to become a part of the process and follow the established channels for making one's voice heard.
They need to attend BLM and NWCOS meetings, take the time to write in or voice concerns during public comment periods, and write BLM officials. Signing petitions or protesting isn't how the process works, and it likely won't yield favorable results.