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By: Robert Janis

At Your Leisure

Special Recreational Rides Permits Remain an Issue

Continued from page 1...

Cricket Mountains OHV Trails near Delta, Utah
Cricket Mountains OHV Trails near Delta, Utah

Hal Hallett is the senior outdoor recreational specialist with the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C. He works on the policy side of land use issues. He explained that the decisions on permits for special rides are handled by the individual field offices that have jurisdiction over the areas in question. He said that the BLM in Washington provides the overall policy direction but the field office has to work within the frame work of their land-use plans. He asserts that the field officers have a better understanding of what the environmental issues are in their specific place of jurisdiction. So, the field offices have to make the determination as to how to handle an individual application.

“There may appear to be inconsistencies in the implementation but not all acres are the same in the range of BLM lands,” he said. “So, one field office may decide that a certain kind of activity can take place with minimal impact while another area with sensitive habitat or endangered species may decide that the habitat is so sensitive and that there are so many endangered species out there, they feel that there is a need for higher means analysis. So, it is an issue of knowing the resource, knowing what’s out there, knowing the sensitivity as well as the track record of the group involved. That’s why you will experience some difference in how some field offices handle it. They have been taken to court a couple of times so odds are they are going to be a lot more sensitive to things.”

Hallett emphasized that the track record of the group asking for a permit is a major issue for the BLM. “If the applicant has done these events before and has a good history of delivering as promised and has worked well with the BLM, then they will probably have smoother sailing getting permits,” he said.

He also noted that the number of people participating in a ride is essential to the process. He explained that a large number of people offer potentially more impact. He added that the BLM does not set a threshold on the question of the number of people in a group. Instead, he said that is determined by the individual field offices. He explained that the office refers to their land-use plan and consult with on-staff scientists, biologists, and others to determine what the threshold should be.

He acknowledged that fees are involved in the application process as well as bonds. A part of the fees is used to reimburse BLM for their costs in analyzing the application. “BLM has to look at what it will cost for us to do our work, and we may ask the applicant to give that money up front,” said Hallett. The applicant is also responsible for presenting the BLM a percentage of revenues they get from the event. The bond as well as insurance is necessary for large events. Hallett admits that there could be a significant cost involved, but he added that the performance bond is returned if the applicant performs what they promise.

Hallett said that it is the responsibility of the applicant to describe in detail what they plan to do. That would include identifying the route to be used, whether that route includes roads and/or trails, through which areas the ride will travel, how many people will be participating, will there be spectators, will there be overnight camping, and more. For all intents and purposes, you will be expected to draw up a business or operation plan of the event.

A major responsibility of the BLM office is to look at the capability of the applicant to fulfill their promise to manage the event. Other issues that the office may weigh include whether the applicant has the capability to have adequate insurance coverage for the event and how much the event may impact on species in the area. With this in mind, the office will also weigh the time of the year the event takes place because species may be more vulnerable during certain times of the year. “There are a lot of variables involved, and there is no formula followed in the decision-making process,” said Hallett.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Near Kanab, Utah

So, how should you go about getting a permit from the BLM for a special ride event? Plan things out long before the event is to take place. You should start your communications with the BLM about the event at least six months before it takes place.  Hallett suggested that you may want to meet with a representative in your local BLM field office to discuss the event while it is still in the planning stages. Such meetings will allow you to discover what is expected.  They can be used to tailor the event so there is less hassle involved in the permit process and provides an opportunity for the office to assist you in preparing the application package and submitting it. It also gives you an opportunity to get things you work out with the BLM in writing. For example, if a field office representative tells you that you don’t need a permit, then you can get that in writing. So, if a ranger stops you before or after the event and threatens to issue citations, you can present him with the letter that shows that the local office said it was okay.

Visit the BLM website and get all documents pertaining to the Special Recreation Permit (SRP). This includes a handbook that tells you how to apply, an application, and an instruction memorandum which explains in detail what is involved in the process. There is also information that tells you if you need a permit for your event. Go to the BLM website at and do a search for all documents that pertain to regulation 2930. There is a search box on the site where you can type in “2930” and “Special Rides Permit” or “Special Recreation Permit” to generate a search for all pertinent documents.

Download or print out the documentation and read everything carefully so that you fully understand what is involved, discuss your plans with the local BLM office, then fill out the application and develop your package. Again, don’t be hesitant about seeking advice and help from the local BLM office. If they give you problems, call the state BLM office recreation planner.

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