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  • Off-roaders get reprieve from fees

    Off-roaders get reprieve from fees
    Fee-for-use programs on hold while BLM weighs the need and impact
    By NIKKI COBB/Staff Writer

    VICTORVILLE Fees scheduled to take effect today for off-roaders on 300,000 acres of public land have been put on hold indefinitely while the Bureau of Land Management weighs the need and impacts of fee-for-use programs.

    The more than 430,000 visitors each year to Dumont Dunes, Johnson Valley, Stoddard Valley, El Mirage and Rasor Off Highway Vehicle areas could pay as much as $20 weekly, or $60 for an annual pass.

    BLM officials say the sport's increasing popularity is driving a need for added services. Stepped-up law enforcement, emergency medical services, trash removal, facilities maintenance, access roads, signs and information kiosks are adding to costs, while federal and state support dwindles.

    "We're still working with user groups and San Bernardino County to gather public comment and come up with proposals," said BLM spokeswoman Jan Bedrosian. "Our rangers are talking with users on site, and we're doing outreach with groups and the district advisory council."

    Bedrosian said a consulting firm hired by the BLM projected a $2.5 million shortfall for the agency.

    Because much of the fee administration could be done through Internet sales or absorbed by existing staff, most of the money collected would reap demonstrable consumer benefits, she said.

    Bedrosian said a fee program instituted at the Imperial Sand Dunes several years ago had received mixed responses from off-roaders. She said it is too soon to tell if fees, raised last month from $10 a week or $30 a year to $25 a week or $90 annually, would deter many of the 1 million visitors to the Imperial OHV areas.

    Roy Denner, president and chief executive officer of the Off-Road Business Association, said off-roaders weren't being included in many of the BLM's decisions.

    Denner said he fears crowding at the remaining free sites, and that because there are many entrances to places such as the Johnson and Stoddard valleys, users will not comply, arousing public complaints.

    "Every year we see increases in user participation, and government agencies like the BLM are not getting funded like they should be from Washington," Denner conceded. "Nobody likes (the fees), but if faced with a choice between closing the areas or paying fees ... they're a necessary evil."

    Denner said OHV users already pay "green sticker" fees when they license their vehicles in California, and a portion of gas taxes also support recreation. He said by charging fees without adequate input from off-roaders, the BLM was bound to raise an outcry.

    "If they do it without a connection to the user community, I suspect they will have a tremendous uproar," Denner said. "If we're not even asked to participate, they're just going to get nailed."

    A Freedom Communications Newspaper
    Copyright 1996-2003 Daily Press
    :gun:'99 TJ Sport:gun:

  • #2
    I don't mind paying fees as long as they keep the roads open.
    Kirk
    1997 Jeep Wrangler

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    • #3
      agreed!
      :gun:'99 TJ Sport:gun:

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