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HAS OFF-ROAD MOTORCYCLING & MULTIPLE USE RECREATIONAL ON STATE LANDS BEEN SUDDENLY DEALT A DEATH BLOW?

 By Tory Briggs/President, Northwest Motorcycle Association

OVERVIEW

The problem is simple, sudden, and severe.  The recent budget impasse situation in Olympia afforded our opposition the opportunity, through an unstoppable sneak attack tactic, to actually divert or effectively block the funds we use to create, maintain and manage ORV Parks and multiple use trail systems on public state land.  If we cannot correct this situation, we will see these facilities and resources closed and lost.

         The budget impasse, which deadlocked Washington’s Legislature this spring, gave the dedicated opposition of multiple use trail recreation a sneaky chance to attempt to essentially eliminate the use of our tiny share of state gas taxes via the Nonhigway & Offroad Vehicle Activities (NOVA) to fund our off-road vehicle parks and multiple use trails.  We must successfully change this Budget language in the upcoming 3rd Special Session which starts July 16, 2001 or our park facilities and multiple use trail resources will most likely be lost.

      Language slipped in at the last possible minute, as the House and Senate suddenly agreed both within and across themselves on a compromise budget, without further comment, just in time to get signed into law and avoid a government shutdown, accomplishes the theft or freezing of our funds.  It is easy to understand, given the massive, detailed nature of the budget, and limited time to review each revision, that legislators could easily miss some sneaky, camouflaged additions to the tiny NOVA section of the budget.

       Who did this?  Who else, the Washington Trails Association (WTA), but surprisingly, and perhaps not legally, WA State InterAgency Committee (IAC) staff (the IAC administers the NOVA funds) was also involved!

·         The budget was signed into law by Governor Gary Locke on 6/27/01.

·         This Budget language is in the form of "provisos”, the wording of which will effectively stop the expenditure of our NOVA funds and open multiple use trails and facilities to attack on several other fronts.

·         For example, Education and Enforcement funding is severely cut, which will result in the loss of significant Ranger/Law Enforcement staff.  If there is no staff, there will be no ability to patrol and directly manage resource use, which is required to keep trail systems open.  Goodbye Walker, Tahuya, Capitol Forest, and more, as an analysis by the  Department of Natural Resources (DNR) clearly states.

·         Capital funding can now only be used on projects intended to achieve compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act!  All of our facilities already comply.  This will close our parks and multiple use trails.  Thurston County needs to do a capital project to control runoff into Chehalis Creek.  If this doesn’t happen, it closes.  That is not an ADA project, and can’t be funded under the current Capital Budget.  Using the ADA served two purposes, it helped hide the change behind "safe” language, and it froze our funds by limiting their spending to things that aren’t needed and can’t take care of our resource’s needs.  Horn Rapids and Riverside are also doomed, and unmaintained multiple use trails may be closed under other existing regulations.

·         A biased fuel use study, long desired by our opposition, intended to create statistics useful to attacking our funding bypassing the inputs of the various multiple use groups, was snuck in.  Remember that NOVA representatives from five of the six user groups have designed and approved a study methodology should one be funded by the Legislature, with funds other than the limited dollars that actually go to support us. But our opposition refused to participate in this effort. Instead, they had money allocated from NOVA before defining what a study IS.

·         There are other hits, but those are the major, crippling ones.  This is the sneakiest possible way to attempt this.  It clearly demonstrates that the opposition aren’t looking for any kind of remedy for injustice, as they claim, they simply intend to eliminate our forms of recreation by any means possible.  We know that if the full body of both Houses in Olympia knew about and could vote on these specific changes, they would be soundly defeated.  Such unreasonable proposals don’t even make it out of committee any more due to the NMA’s efforts over the last few years

·         The NMA has been on guard in years past, and especially this year, against all attacks in Olympia.  We were diligent as possible, nothing could have stopped this.

·         We have a plan to reverse every attack during the special third session that Governor Locke has called. We are confident that we will succeed, and also see these opposition being severely discredited for a long time.

·         Powerful forces will work alongside the NMA, including the Washington State Motorsports Dealers Association (WSMDA) and other multiple use recreation groups.

·         Please stand by.  Watch your email, fax and phone messages closely in case action is needed, be certain that a quick response will be required.  Spread the word.  Make sure everyone knows what is going on.  We are fighting for the EXISTENCE of multiple use recreation on state land in Washington. 

·         DO THIS HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT NOW!  Be certain you know how to contact your State Representative and Senator on a moments notice!   Obtain phone numbers (Olympia and local), their U.S. Mail addresses (Olympia and local), and their email address.  If you are online, email nma_landuse@eudoramail.com to be put on a special quick response list.  Please include your full name, address, phone numbers (work, home & fax), the names of your Representative and Senator and your organizational affiliation (if any) in this email.

Following is some background information:

The opposition of any type of recreation except limited hiking on our trails on public lands in our state have always attacked on three fronts while keeping up the general pressure through the press.

Those three fronts are:

The courts, where lawsuits are used to stop any project that might add to or maintain trail mileage.  Land managers barely bother to request project funding anymore because this strategy makes the process so painful.

The legislature, where attempts to get laws limiting or hindering multiple use recreation are pursued.  The NMA, through heroes and excellent professional support, constantly guards against such attacks, and has built strong legislative understanding of our side of the equation.

Any source of funding which is used to support multiple use recreation, is constantly attacked.  In Olympia, those strategies have focused on attempting to redistribute the limited funds intended for multiple use trail recreation towards hiking-only uses, in spite of the massive other funding intended for just hiking, and to attack the results of fuel use studies done over the last few decades with a biased study intended to drastically reduce our funding.  Again, we have been very successful catching and stopping these attacks, and educating legislators about the facts and these blatant tactics.

BUT!

The recent budget impasse in Olympia gave these opposition a rare opportunity to execute a crippling sneak attack on the NOVA funds which support our off-road vehicle parks and trail systems on state lands.

NOVA funds cover three categories of spending:

Maintenance and Operations.  This covers the basics, especially for the parks like Thurston and Horn Rapids.

Capital Projects.  This covers facility and trail construction and renovation, and also funds the studies often required during the project approval process.

Education and Enforcement.  This covers the cost of providing law enforcement and ranger coverage of our trail riding areas.

Before NOVA, in the ‘70s, citizens could claim a refund for the fuel taxes paid for gas not used on state highways and roads.  With NOVA, off-road vehicle users gave up their right to request this refund in turn for having these funds dedicated to supporting multiple use trail recreation, including riding horses, bicycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles and 4WDs.  It is our money, plain and simple.  It isn’t much, but it has been used wisely in general.

The Washington state budget is something around 27 billion dollars.  NOVA funding is but a drop in this massive bucket.  As the clock ran down on the second special session, it seemed like we had a handle on earlier attempts to attack our funding, but a sudden compromise and freezing of the budget occurred, and our opposition timed the insertion of the attacking changes just beforehand.  There could be no response, and now it is law.

Fortunately, Governor Locke has called a special third session, focused on trying to fund massive transportation spending, and this gives us a chance to rectify this huge injustice.

Stand by, we’re going to need your help, in the form of a sudden and gigantic wave of communication to your representatives in Olympia.  We will turn this around!

Tory Briggs/Jul 01


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