I have been doing some thinking about what lies forward for the duning community. I have been in and around land-use battle since the 1980s and have served on the board of directors of both Cal4 Wheel and ASA as well as the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission. If there is anything that I have learned, it is that there will always be the next issue.
Right now, we are experiencing an explosion in sales growth and use of side-by-sides across the entire OHV spectrum. Any new vehicle type brings with it new management challenges and a new group of OHV enthusiasts. Whether it was the dirt bikes of the 60s or the three wheelers of the 80s, Government became increasingly involved in regulating their sales and use. Land managers across the United States are faced with balancing access and recreation against land stewardship and public safety. The dunes are a haven or heaven for virtually every type of OHV except snowmobiles. And yes, I have seen some of them try the dunes as well. This mix of vehicles is the keystone to the diverse uses at the ISDRA.
"The more issues that we don't help solve, the more that will get solved without us."
– Jim Bramham
Air quality and dust have become the issue of the day at Oceano. This issue will come to the ISDRA as well as many other OHV opportunities. There are several facets to the air quality issue; some hover around vehicle emissions and fueling emissions. Campfires also bring a level of concern. The largest air quality issue is dust. Dust is not only a visual reminder of the presence of vehicles in the area, its effects can spread beyond the recreation area. Dust also adds a safety element with low visibility.
Funding for the management of our recreation areas, and especially the dunes, constantly needs to be secured and used wisely. Above and beyond the permit fees we pay, part of the registration and gas tax for off-highway vehicles is returned to the management of these areas. This augments the federal dollars allocated by Congress. The more issues that we don’t help solve, the more that will get solved without us. And that is always more costly in both dollars and opportunities.
So what do these three things have in common? They are things you can personally help solve! As new visitors and vehicle types come to the dunes, it is incumbent on the longtime visitors to reach out. A very small amount of information and encouragement from a fellow enthusiast can do far more than blinking red lights. Become a knowledge leader in your camping circle, learn the rules, think safety, respect others, respect the land and respect the land managers. Encourage others to ride not only where it is legal but it also provokes less dust. There is a 15 miles per hour speed limit around camps rule for a reason, less dust and more safety. It should actually be incorporated anywhere outside the actual dunes.
Keep all of your equipment, both towing and duning, in top running order. Use only CARB compliant refueling devices and minimize the operation of generators. Smoldering campfires are an ignition hazard as well as an air-quality detriment. I see many camps that have turned to propane campfires. Easier than hauling wood, no pesky smoke in your eyes and easy to extinguish. Plus it’s illegal to move firewood into California from out of state or more than 50 miles within the state.
Some of the most direct costs of dunes management are trash and human waste. Keeping a clean organized camp so your stuff doesn’t blow off when you go out for a ride is critical. Don’t encourage wildlife scavenging by leaving food and trash sources available when you’re not in camp. Consider hauling your trash home, your trash can is empty at the house. If you do use the trash bins, be sure the lids will close and never leave trash outside of a secure container. Keep the bathrooms clean, consider bringing your own paper. Yes, these are small things but the BLM is not your maid service and when they are forced to be, it costs a lot of money and leaves a bad impression. Buy your permits and keep your OHV registered. It all helps.
Several years ago, the ASA promoted a “checkered flag program” to show its support of the BLM and its law enforcement efforts at the dunes. This was a highly successful campaign with the duners and well accepted and appreciated by the BLM. We should re-introduce the program by educating duners of its meaning and values.
Volunteer! Whether it’s picking up trash in the dunes, on an ASA project, or with another OHV organization. Volunteerism pays huge dividends in keeping public lands open for public use.
Think DUST, Act Smart, Be Safe and please come back again!