February 15, 2014
Dear Governor Sandoval,
I am writing on behalf of the Nevada Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) concerning a current ethics issue related to the OHV Commission grant process.
BHA was a participant of the many long years in the struggle to pass an OHV registration bill. Finally, when we came together as a disparate group of "stakeholders" to craft a bill we could all live with and accomplish goals we had in common, we were able to get a bill passed.
Our BHA organization has many members who own and use OHVs to get to their hunt/fish areas and then proceed afoot, as is our tradition.
Our members have increasing stories of hunts ruined or solitude of fishing trips disturbed by irresponsible and even illegal OHV use. Not only have our opportunities dwindled by this phenomenon, but wildlife habitat as well has been increasingly fragmented and impacted by such OHV use. Responsible OHV users, such as many of our members, were heartened by the OHV bill with it's hope for a highly visible ID on OHVs as well as projected funds for such needed programs as education, restoration, signage and enforcement.
We have been closely following the actions of the OHV Commission since it's formation. We have both spoken and submitted comments where we felt they were needed. As the grant process was being developed, we were encouraged by the amount of appropriate data required of applicants, as well as the transparency of the decision process. The first round of grants were just awarded. The process was entirely open and the grants awarded, to a diverse group of entities, were across a range of projects such as were set out in the language of the bill.
BHA is concerned that there is a pending ethics question regarding 2 of the grant applications by NV Trail Stewards. Our primary concern is the threat of having all grants put on hold and/or the applicants having to once again go through the selection process. This result would be a significant waste of time and money for all concerned, as well as erosion of public faith in a fair process. Our hope is that there will be a speedy decision by the Ethics Committee that will allow the current approved grants to go forward and begin their much needed projects.
From the account of a BHA member who attended the grant applicant presentation meeting of the Commission, the Commissioners who had any remote connection with any of the applicant organizations carefully abstained from voting on those proposals. The chairman, Mr. Jackson, even went so far as to relinquish the gavel during discussion of requests in the same category as an organization of which he is a member.
That said, it is highly concerning to us that Commissioner Lambert, president and founder of NV Trail Stewards, was the sole person to sign their 3 grant applications, as well as to present and advocate for those proposals to the Commission. To have a sitting Commissioner be the advocate of grant proposals from an organization of which he is president and founder, to our mind, exceeds the bounds of propriety for a Commission charged with dispensing monies from owners of all registered OHVs. It is imperative that the grant disposition process be completely free of any shadow of unethical actions. Such behavior only threatens the entire worthy program.
We urge you to resolve this questionable situation as speedily and fairly as possible so that the public will see good things happening on the ground right now from their fee monies. We look forward to news of the resolution.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this troubling situation,
Board member, NV Chapter, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.