The 2012/2013 Fiscal Year is the fourth consecutive year where substantial funding has been diverted from the California OHV Program to other sources. Since 1974, approximately $195.9 million has been diverted from the OHV Program to the General Fund and State Parks and Recreation Fund. Of that total amount, $129 million has been diverted from the self-funded OHV Trust Fund within the last four state budget cycles.
The visionary leaders that created the self-funded OHV Program wanted a strong, organized program that included law enforcement, the remediation of land, and education with an understanding of where you can recreate legally.
The California OHV program was created in 1971 as a self-funded program within the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The primary funding for that OHV program is derived from registration of off-road vehicles, entries fees to State Vehicle Recreation Areas (SVRA), and revenue derived from a calculation of the motor vehicle fuel tax paid for fuel used in off-highway recreation. In 2007, SB-742 was approved by a near unanimous vote and changed the motor vehicle fuel tax revenue to be derived from a calculation based on the actual number of OHV recreation-related public land visitor-use-days and a doubling of the fees for registration of off-road vehicles.
The past diversion of funds from the OHV Trust Fund has placed the program in jeopardy and endanger of becoming encumbered. The local assistance grants for 2012/2013 grant cycle are 52% lower than last year; a reduction that poses a serious threat to the OHV program. The funding reductions of the last few years means that the program has already had demonstrable reductions that will be visible this year; such as a 10% cut to district staffing; an 18% cut in headquarters staffing. Contracts are being cut, which means fewer hours at the SVRA. There will be closures in the middle of the week and, clearly, there has been loss of opportunity in the maintenance of the trails and the riding in the areas supported by local assistance grants.
The OHV program works so well because those local assistance grants go to specific law enforcement, environmental, educational and riding opportunities outside the SVRAs. And, the user community has stepped forward to accept increased registration fees to support OHV recreation opportunity.
The consequences of loss of the local assistance grants program and capital outlay is a rapid disintegration of the SVRA system (the OHV Program) because we will not have enough money to handle the growing need.
The grant funding is provided to local agencies: U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, County Sheriff Departments, and numerous non-proﬁt agencies. This funding is spend in the counties for salaries for workers and purchase of miscellaneous materials for projects.
The current financial scandal involving State Parks and “hidden” accounts underscores a bigger problem within the system. As noted, in the past four budget cycles, $129 million has been diverted from the OHV Trust Fund to other sources, including the State Parks Recreation Fund. Currently, State Parks is sitting on two “off budget” special funds totaling over $54 million; $34 million identified as OHV Trust Fund and $20 million identified as State Parks and Recreation Fund.
OHV recreation is the fastest growing segment within parks. Over the life of the program, the OHV Trust Fund has been subject to manipulation with funds diverted from providing for OHV recreation opportunity to other non-OHV uses. Numerous state program audits are critical of OHV Program management within the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks).
Prompt action is necessary to address this critical issue.
1) We support the concept of applying $20 million identified as State Parks and Recreation Fund money matching the dollar-for-dollar contributions made by private entities to keep park units open for recreation opportunity.
2) We support a moratorium on closures of any park unit.
3) We want the OHV Program to be treated as a part of the State Parks and Recreation system. OHV recreation is the fastest growing segment within parks. Over the life of the program, the OHV Trust Fund has been subject to manipulation with funds diverted from providing for OHV recreation opportunity to other non-OHV uses. Numerous state program audits are critical of OHV Program management within the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks).
4) We request that $16 million identified as OHV Trust Fund be applied to Local Assistance Grants to restore the grants to SB-742 level of $26 million.
5) We request that $7 million of capital outlay projects be restored.
6) We request that $10 million identified as OHV Trust Fund be allocated to OHMVR Division for deferred operations and maintenance that have reduced OHV recreation opportunity within the SVRA system due to significant budget reductions over the past four years.