Ten well informed Dumont Dunes users attended the March 6, 2007, meeting of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Dumont Dunes Technical Review Team (TRT), and put forth what turned out to be the advisory group's preferred alternative regarding the proposed user fee increase at Dumont Dunes. Without their participation, we might have missed the winning idea altogether.
The point that I'd like to get across is that users absolutely can make the difference when they participate. I recognize that not everyone can get a weekday off to travel to Barstow for a meeting, which is partially why advisory committees exist in the first place. And not always do participants feel that was worth it, as often such meetings product no real tangible results, and not always are visitors' comments well heeded.
But on Tuesday, our guests made all the difference.
In the past, the management of motorized recreation at Dumont Dunes had been supported by funds directly from OHV registration fees and fuel taxes. Recently, however, this fund has come under the control of anti-access extremists who bleeding OHV management rather than funding it. As a result, no OHV funds were awarded to the BLM's Barstow Field Office for managing Dumont Dunes. This senseless decision places the entire burden for funding on user fees, which are slated to increase to as much as $140 for an annual permit.
Thanks to the participation of the Dumont Dunes users who attended, the TRT was able to suggest an alternative fee structure that would recognize and address the impacts of the holiday weekends on the management budget, while minimizing the fee increase for those who visit during other, less crowded times.
These holiday weekends now attract an estimated 30,000+ visitors, and they are truly something to see. It's practically an outdoor convention of like-minded OHV'ers who come for the excitement of the crowds as much as for the riding. Unfortunately, the management activities required by such numbers is less about managing our public land, and more about crowd control. Although the troublemakers are a very small percentage, with so many people in attendance, even a tiny fraction of a percent outnumbers the BLM and country's boots on the ground.
It was wise of the users attending the TRT meeting to recognize this, and helpful of them to suggest a solution that directly addresses the problem. Although the everyone present was optimistic, we recognized the need for the BLM Barstow recreation staff to re-run the numbers as proposed by the TRT to ensure that their alternative will generate enough funding to meet the area's expenses.
Currently, an annual pass for Dumont Dunes is $60, which the BLM first suggested be raised to $140. The TRT's alternative would create a new annual pass that excludes the holiday weekends for $90, and would raise the unlimited annual pass to $120. The TRT's proposed alternative would allow users with the non-holiday annual pass to visit during the holidays for a $10 surcharge.
Similarly, the current weekly pass for Dumont Dunes is $20, which the BLM first suggested be raised to as high as $50 for ten days. The TRT proposes that the weekly pass be increased to $30 for non-holiday weeks, and to $40 during holidays. For discussion purposes, the holiday weekends are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Presidents Day and Easter.
Sadly, however, the specific users that I represent were again ignored. The imposition of user fees without providing for reasonable single day access has shut out a segment of the population that used to enjoy casual access to this unique area of our public lands. I'll continue to fight for a day pass with or without the support of my fellow TRT members.
The TRT scheduled its meeting for Tuesday, April 18, 2007, in hopes that the BLM Barstow office will be able to finalize the budget and fee structure suggested by the TRT. I look forward to the continued participation of the Dumont Dunes users in helping the TRT work toward a sustainable motorized recreation area for us all.