UDG in Perspective

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Vincent J Brunasso
ASA Co-Founder • Past President
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UDG in Perspective

Post by Vincent J Brunasso »

The ASA was invited to attend the Los Angeles “Partnerships 2003” conference (Nov 2003) and the “BLM National Recreation Forum” (Jan 2004) in Las Vegas as a direct result of the ASA sponsored “Partners in Dune Safety” highway billboard program. During a meeting with BLM Director Clarke at the Las Vegas forum ASA and the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) became aware of the opportunity to acquire increased ISDRA federal funding under the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) “Challenge Cost Share” (CCS) program. The CCS program was initiated by the Secretary of Interior to encourage cooperative conservation partnerships.

CCS funding is a competitive process wherein the projects are:
· Nominated by the bureaus (BLM); include partners; be cost-shared
· Bureaus (BLM) can apply for funds which include a planning and monitoring element
· Projects that serve as a catalyst for fostering sustainable partnerships should receive priority
· Where applicable, the projects reflect efforts to resolve conflicts and pursue cooperation to achieve the intended goal
· Projects will be selected competitively based on the benefits from the project
· CCS funding is available above and beyond routine federal appropriations and will supplement visitor use fees.

In consultation with the BLM California Desert District (CDD) Manager and the leadership of the Imperial Valley and Yuma Chambers of Commerce it was determined that a non-profit organization was needed to support the CDD request for CCS funding. The United Desert Gateway (UDG) was formed as a 501C-4 non-profit in September of 2004 by the Brawley, El Centro and Yuma Chambers of Commerce. An Assistance Agreement (AA) was signed between the UDG and BLM on Sept 17, 2004. Two Task Orders (TO) were subsequently executed. These TO’s provide for the following partnership activity:

Task Order 1(a) April 2005
The purpose of the work will be to engage the public, i.e. the recreationists and the UDG communities with the intent to increase awareness, respect and knowledge of stewardship behavior. Specific duties include: collaborate on the development and/or implementation of the following outreach initiatives to further enhance the image of the ISDRA among the UDG communities: Billboard safety program, Dune Smart Brochure, broadcast media outreach, ISDRA cleanup, a “Take Time Out For Safety” flyer, and a law enforcement trailer for the south dunes area.

Task Order 2 (a) June 2005
The purpose of the work will be to collaboratively develop a practical and cost-effective tourism monitoring program. The project will assist BLM to better manage and fulfill its responsibilities set forth in management plans for public lands in the region. Specific duties include, but are not limited to; assemble and analyze previous survey data, test visitor survey instruments, develop visitor survey sample strategy, prepare tourism monitor plan, prepare a final tourism monitoring plan.

Purpose and Objectives
The United Desert Gateway (UDG) partnership recognizes that the management of public lands in the region presents a significant opportunity to build collaborative stewardship based partnerships that will allow participation by local Gateway Communities, the OHV community and other special interest user groups in public land management planning, stewardship/education/outreach programs and to respond to impacts of public use on public land such as the ISDRA. An active local community will also preserve the integrity and long-term sustainability of ISDRA and other local BLM public lands.

The ISDRA is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and provides world class off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation opportunities to hundreds of thousands of OHV enthusiasts each year and is a major component of the Yuma, Arizona, and Imperial Valley economy. In order to preserve the integrity and long-term sustainability of ISDRA and other BLM public lands, there needs to be an active local community to increase local support and appreciation for the economic value of public lands to the region. The UDG recognizes that the successful ongoing management of the ISDRA is in part dependent on developing and fostering partnerships with the local communities, businesses, sand sport enthusiasts, and other ISDRA visitors. These partnerships would allow BLM to reduce operating costs by fostering volunteer programs, financial support, development, coordination and implementation of public educational materials and programs which help the BLM meet its goals and objectives for management of the ISDRA.

Current UDG objectives will assist BLM in fulfilling its multiple use mission for management of the ISDRA. The BLM and United Desert Gateway are mutually committed to the goals of promoting and stimulating support and interest for the ISDRA by:
· Gathering of information to assist the partnership in determining how best to meet the needs of visitors to the region;
· Providing support for the development of a volunteer program that would be drawn from the OHV community, local gateway communities, and other interested parties;
· Providing support to the BLM in the management of the ISDRA RAMP;
· Assist BLM in identifying, developing and implementing a variety of public education and outreach initiatives as well as assisting BLM in integrating educational programs into BLM outreach planning and the ISDRA outreach planning process.

UDG Management
UDG is managed by the executive management of the Brawley, El Centro and Yuma Chambers of Commerce. This is an added responsibility that they assumed when their chamber Boards agreed to and entered into the Assistance Agreement with BLM. They receive no compensation from the BLM or from any funds associated with this partnership. They do keep track of their time spent on UDG activities for future cost sharing consideration.

UDG Funding
Under the terms of the Assistance Agreement UDG will carry out specific tasks that are defined by BLM and accepted by UDG. The funding and accountability for these tasks is defined in the TO. The cost of the project, the cost matching contributions and the specific tasks to be accomplished are also defined in each TO. In effect BLM is out-sourcing to UDG as they would with other sub contractor. The dune user community inputs are considered in the same manner as if BLM were accomplishing the tasks independently prior to UDG’s involvement.

Matching Funds
Pre-formalization of UDG:
The CCS funding criteria requires projects to be cost-shared and to foster sustainable partnerships. Several ASA dune safety and stewardship projects predated the actual formation of the UDG. The Brawley, El Centro and Yuma Chambers still worked on these projects during the process of formalizing the UDG. These programs provided up front credibility and assurance that the UDG BLM partnership would be successful. The following ASA facilitated projects predated the formalization of the UDG:
· Highway Billboards
· Dune Smart Brochure
· Duners Informing Duners “On The Ground” Volunteer Outreach
· Printed Media Outreach –“Buy A Pass” & “Take Time Out For Safety”
· Broadcast Media Outreach – “Motorsports Mania” Radio & TV
· Law Enforcement Trailer Donation

The aforementioned projects provide over $100,000 of cost-sharing credibility. All of these projects were within the scope of the CCS competitive criteria and fostered sustainable partnerships. They were all funded by businesses that recognized the value of Imperial Sand Dunes motorized recreation. Most if not all, of these projects were tasks that would have been undertaken by BLM given the resources to do so.

Post UDG formation:
Several new partners have joined the UDG portfolio of business sponsors and volunteers contributing to the TO projects. Their contributions include outright monetary contributions, services in kind, at cost and discounted services, and volunteer support. The scope of their contributions is noted below:
· Aerial photography in support of the “Census Day” data gathering project
· Graphics art and printing support for the “Litter Education” program
· Layout and printing of the UDG “Welcome Newspaper”
· Volunteer management of several outreach programs

Volunteer Support
Based on a long-standing BLM policy the El Centro Field Office (ECFO) has received credit for volunteer hours. Long before UGD the ECFO formally submitted a “Group Volunteer Services Agreement” (form 1114-5) to the State Office to qualify for supplemental federal funding. This program predates the CCS program and exists throughout the federal agencies to encourage volunteer support. The following volunteer projects have been submitted by the ECFO:
· “Project Sand” Glamis cleanup
· Closure Resigning Project – Oct 2001
· Closure Compliance Project – Dec 2002
· Duners Informing Duners – Sept 2002 – April 2003

Looking ahead the UDG will submit volunteer hours as a component of the duning community contribution under the provisions of the CCS cost-sharing criteria. In so doing UDG will assist the ECFO in qualifying for CCS funds to be used on specific tasks defined under the terms of the TO. These CCS funds will be a direct offset of future visitor fee requirements.

Value of the Partnership
The following is a summary of the anticipated value of the UDG – BLM partnership:
· ECFO access to supplemental federal appropriations that would not otherwise be available.
· Active community support of a valuable tourist destination.
· Reduction of cost through pooling of resources.
· Improved ISDRA outreach resulting in enhanced visitor satisfaction.
· Enhanced BLM’s ability to implement the objectives of the ISDRA Recreation Management and the Business Plans.
· Fostering volunteer programs and financial support.
· Maintain public access to public lands

rev 9/6/2005
Vincent J. Brunasso
ASA Co-Founder and past president

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
--Thomas Jefferson


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