State Parks Board increases opportunities for habitat restoration funding
In July 2010, in a 5-0 vote, the Colorado State Parks Board approved sweeping changes to the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Grant Program that will give habitat restoration and law enforcement proposals the opportunity to receive a portion of the funds collected from OHV registration fees.
Defenders activists were also instrumental in achieving this success—our supporters sent almost half of the 6,000 messages submitted in favor of the reforms.
This victory was the result of a year-long campaign by outdoor recreation groups, sportsmen organizations and conservation groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, to reform the broken system for awarding grants.
“While there are many responsible OHV riders, many others abuse the privilege, ignoring signs and violating laws that preserve our irreplaceable wild lands,” said Caitlin Balch-Burnett, Colorado outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “By using the proceeds from Colorado's Off-Highway Vehicle Registration Program to fund restoration efforts and repair vital habitat for our wildlife, we can reinvest in our local communities and preserve Colorado's natural heritage and quality of life for future generations to enjoy.”
Abusing the System for Special Interests
As detailed in this investigative report  by the Denver Post, one of the subcommittees for the OHV Program had been continually abusing the funding process by awarding OHV enthusiasts more funds than they had applied for; secretly increasing grant amounts before submitting to the Board for approval; and giving excess money to trail maintenance projects while claiming there was a lack of funds available for critical law enforcement and habitat restoration initiatives.
Leveling the Playing Field
The approved changes to the program ensure that a variety of criterion will be used to evaluate grant applications, including the need to restore habitats damaged by irresponsible riders. Other reforms include:
- Reconfiguring the makeup of the OHV grant approval subcommittee so it is not entirely composed of OHV riders
- Including a wildlife law enforcement and wildlife or biologist expert as ex-officio members of the subcommittee
- Implementing a new procedure for escalating denied applications to the State Trails Committee and/or State Parks Board
What It Means for Wildlife
In recent years, irresponsible off-highway vehicle use in Colorado has damaged habitats for many imperiled species, including the rare Canada lynx. The new reforms will ensure funds will be available to help repair this damage and give Colorado wildlife back the healthy habitats they need to survive.