|Scott Wheeler explains his feelings about how the BLM sometimes ignores off road enthusiasts when it comes to planning for recreation.|
A meeting of the Castle Country Off Highway Vehicle Association afforded an opportunity for members of the group to meet with Bureau of Land Management officials on Feb. 18 and at times the meeting got heated.
Members of the association often asked some very pointed questions of Floyd Johnson and Patrick Gubbins concerning closures of trails and possible closures of others in the San Rafael Swell area.
While some members of the association had specific questions about certain trails or roads, others were more general about their comments, some feeling that the BLM has basically left the OHV riders out of the loop when it comes to considering closures.
"The truth is that we had recreational people on the committees that reviewed the possible closures," said Gubbins. "They had input."
But questions arose as to what type of recreational people were on the committes. Some felt that they included back packers, mountain bikers and campers, but not those who use the lands for motorized recreation.
"I looked at some of the trails that are being closed and my husband and I feel that our life is over," said Joan Powell. "We have been doing this for years and love the Swell. To have our favorite trails closed off will be very hard to handle."
Scott Wheeler, one of the associations officers pointed out time and again that he felt the BLM gave OHV riders little consideration and sometimes even deceived them. He brought up one instance where he was with a BLM representative questioning him about some trail problems and he caught that person in a lie.
"When I confronted him he told me 'Well everybody lies don't they'," said Wheeler.
But Johnson's response to this was very personal.
"Have I ever lied to you?" he asked the group. Many people in the audience seened stunned over his candor. "I won't lie to you. I want to deal with you honestly."
The BLM officials pointed out that if a trail or road was closed by mistake or there were mitigating circumstances they would be happy to review those closures and even revamp them if needed.
"The truth is that most of these areas are going to remain closed," said Gubbins. "I have some mixed emotions on this. We will go back and look if you have individual complaints, but we aren't going to go back and look at 1100 miles of trails and then open all of them up again. That just won't happen. But if we were incorrect in a closure I will be man enough to admit it."
Many questions asked by the audience on individual closures were difficult for the BLM officials to answer on the spot largely because of the expansive area that was being discussed and the fact that many of the names for various areas are confusing.
"We find that people have names for an area, but that is not what it is called on our maps," said Johnson. "For some of these specific problems we need you to come into our office and discuss it so we can pin down where you are talking about."
The meeting with the officials closed with all sides agreeing to work more closely together, not only on committees that determine openings and closures, but also to work to improve trails, improve enforcement and to put up signage that prevents misunderstandings on trails.