The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Karen Schambach (530) 333-2545; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

California OHV Dollars Can Fund Non-Motorized Recreation

Legal Opinion May Open New Support Base for Floundering State Parks


Fuel tax revenue now earmarked for support of off-highway vehicular
recreation can be used for other forms of recreation as well, according
to a California Legislative Counsel opinion released today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The opinion could
free desperately needed funds to support unpaved road maintenance
throughout the entire state park system.

The Off Highway
Vehicle (OHV) Division of the state Department of Parks &
Recreation has long held the position that the approximately $60
million the OHV Trust Fund receives each year may be used only for
projects benefiting dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or
snowmobiles although nearly 83% of the funds are generated from street
legal vehicles. Consequently, the OHV Division has refused to fund any
project that does not provide recreation benefits to so-called "Green
Sticker" off-road vehicles, despite plain language in the statute to
the contrary.

In an opinion letter written to state Senator
Fran Pavley on October 7, Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine
concluded that OHV Trust fund revenue may be spent to provide motorized
access to non-motorized recreation. This Legislative Counsel opinion
was sought by PEER California Field Director Karen Schambach, following
a lengthy exchange with OHV Division Chief Phil Jenkins, who insisted
any projects funded by OHV grant funds must be limited to projects
which benefit unlicensed vehicles.

"The lion's share of fuel
tax revenues that make up the OHV Trust Fund come from people driving
on dirt roads to access hiking, fishing or camping and these people
should be able to benefit from their own tax contributions," Schambach
stated. "The language of the statute on this issue is crystal clear."

parks like Anza Borrego and Red Rock Canyon, for example, with hundreds
of miles of dirt roads, could benefit from fuel tax transfers, but
these parks are being denied funding unless they allow noisy and
destructive dirt bikes and ATVs. Citing the legal opinion from the
state Legislature's top lawyer, PEER has sent a letter to the
Department of Parks and Recreation warning it to stop withholding
funding from projects that serve hundreds of thousands of California

The current OHV-only funding policy has also
affected U.S. Forest Service Travel Management Plans, PEER contends.
The Forest Service has a road maintenance budget deficit of more than a
billion dollars but under the state's current funding policy, only
roads designated for dirt bike and ATV users are eligible for the State
recreation grants.

"The OHV Division is supposed to administer
the fund, not be advocates for one type of recreation," said Schambach.
"With funding for recreation drying up, it is unconscionable that tens
of millions of dollars are being hoarded for off-road vehicles."

View the Legislative Counsel opinion

Read the PEER letter

See where OHV Trust Fund revenues come from

Look at the pollution toll of OHV in state parks

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.