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By: Robert Janis

Colorado OHV Coalition

Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition Focuses on Responsible Use and Conservation of Land

Founded in 1987, the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVC) was created by a coalition of all-terrain vehicle, dirt bike, 4-wheel drive, and snowmobile state associations as well as clubs and the state’s motorcycle dealers association. Its mission is to represent, assist, educate, and empower off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. It is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of public lands and natural resources to preserve the aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

Membership includes individuals and families who are ATV users and/or enthusiasts as well as businesses related to ATV. According to Jerry Abboud, executive director of legislative affairs, there are about 9,000 members.

The most urgent issues confronting the organization and ATV riders, racers, and business in Colorado is the implementation of the Forest Service Travel Management Rules (TMR), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revisions to Resource Management Plans (RMP) and Travel Management Plans that direct users to designated routes. Moreover, added Abboud, there is a land grab underway by Congress called the National Landscape Conservation System which is pushing great tracts of Wilderness legislation and special management areas that are non-motorized.

In order to assist in the implementation of the TMR, the COHVC is offering statewide training to volunteers to GPS off-highway vehicle routes to place in a database for future use and to determine the accuracy of the motor vehicle use maps. According to Abboud, a similar project is also underway with the Bureau of Land Management. “The point is that the agencies have little money to evaluate historical and user created routes,” said Abboud. “With no record of the routes and no written profile, it would be difficult to open them in the future.”

As far as the Mountains of Wilderness legislation is concerned, Abboud noted that the Coalition is encouraging members to contact Congress; and they are also preparing, should it become necessary, to negotiate on boundaries. They also continue to monitor travel management and seek to provide funding to support dwindling agency budgets as a result of the current economic situation.

Currently, the only lobbyist for the Coalition is Abboud. But he noted that members of the Coalition are also involved. “They have become skilled volunteer lobbyists,” he noted.

Abboud has been lobbying the Colorado General Assembly for the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and the Powersports Dealer Association of Colorado (PDAC) for 21 years. “The key to lobbying success are: Your word is your bond; integrity is your most important commodity; know your subject matter better than anyone else; and count your votes,” said Abboud. He added that there are at least 700 pieces of legislation introduced in the Colorado General Assembly every year.

“You have to pursue each and every one of the bills for possible links to issues such as emissions, noise, insurance, and programs detrimental to motorized recreation,” continued Abboud. “When you find a bill you can support, you lobby members of the Colorado General Assembly and testify if asked. If it is a bad bill, you can hopefully find a member to carry an amendment to fix it or if it is nightmare that can’t be fixed, you lobby to kill the bill and bring grass roots supporters to bear with letters, e-mails, and phone calls. Running legislation on behalf of ATV recreationists or dealers adds the dimension of careful drafting of the language of the bill, creating a concise educational message about the bill that can be provided to the members of the Assembly, lining up the most compelling witnesses for the hearings and firing up grass roots support.”

Influencing local decisions by city councils and other decision-making groups is a local affair, continued Abboud. “Local controversy is much more personal,” he said. “We encourage supporters to bring the family to local hearings and be prepared to have their voices heard. Finding a champion for motorized off-highway issues on a local board or council means making friends before there is ever an issue.”

He finds that the best motivator to get volunteers involved in the process is the fear of loss of opportunity. “That’s probably the most powerful motivator and needs the least explanation,” said Abboud.

Educating the grass roots comes in the form of communication like the use of a newsletter as well as web-based and e-mail-based alerts. The organization also holds annual workshops on all sorts of topics including chain saw certification to understanding NEPA. For example, the Coalition offered a workshop that included information on hands on instruction in trail maintenance and off-highway vehicle management. Some sessions focused on agency needs, provided certification for specialized equipment, helped to develop strong working relationships between ATV enthusiasts and land managers, helped create a better understanding of OHV recreation needs, fostered education on successful planning and management strategies, helped to develop OHV and travel management expertise, and trained trail crews supported by OHV Registration funds. The workshop agenda is specifically designed for line managers, field specialists, and OHV enthusiasts.

Members of the Coalition are encouraged to provide financial assistance. “We are outspent by the anti-access groups 15 to 1 at a minimum,” said Abboud. “There is no way to sugar coat the situation. We cannot compete without OHV riders providing adequate funding. We have to be capable of hiring professionals. It’s just not an all volunteer world anymore.”

Abboud also noted that the coalition relies on member-volunteers to do trail patrols, work on trail projects and provide grassroots support and local leadership for trail projects ABD identification of local issues. “We cannot function without good volunteers in these positions,” he added.

Abboud noted that the Coalition gets involved in lawsuits as well as meetings of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. “We attend, review, and analyze the plans and begin the process for comment and litigation if necessary,” he said. The Coalition also works closely with the Blue Ribbon Coalition. “Much of their mission is similar to ours,” said Abboud. “We follow their alerts, talk to them about issues like the Travel Management Rule, and we often try to follow their national strategy. We have done fundraisers with them and worked on projects together.”

He added that state associations may be able to do a better job identifying issues and concerns and developing strategies.

The Colorado Off-Highway Coalition has also been involved in statewide projects which included an economic impact study of Colorado OHV recreation and interagency statewide uniform travel management signing, a project to implement Phase 2 of the program to fund uniform travel management signing on all public lands in Colorado. Also, it has done off-highway vehicle user surveys. All of this can be accessed at the Coalitions website www.cohvco.org.

The Coalition also works with local clubs encouraging them and assisting them in applying for state grants for trails and other facilities. They also assist the local clubs with local agencies and offer consultants to help with comments on travel plans issues.

The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition also assists groups trying to organize ATV racing events. “We assist folks who are trying to organize events when there is a problem with federal, state, or local governments,” said Abboud. “However, we are not organized to promote the sport.”

The organization also has a website www.cohvco.org. The site promotes federal, state and local issues members should be aware of and also provides links to other websites that have a relationship to off-highway vehicle issues. There is also access to a calendar of events, the organization’s newsletter, a list of officers of the group, a list of member clubs, information on grants and projects, trail guides, and photo album. There is also a sister website that focuses on responsible recreation and that takes comments and inquiries and allow visitors to post national issues. Members can be signed up there and donations to the COHVC can be made through the site as well. In addition, there is a COHVCO Foundation website www.staythetrail.org that offers a host of information on responsible recreation.


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